BP faces up to $13.7 bn civil penalty over 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill

BP could possibly end up paying a civil penalty of up to $13.7 billion for its 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico after a court ruling yesterday, in which a US judge split the difference between competing claims about how much oil had escaped into the ocean, The Financial Times reported.

The highest possible penalty was about $4 billion less than the maximum previously sought by the US government. It was, however, still almost four times as much as the amount set aside by the company.

According to judge Carl Barbier's ruling at the US District Court in New Orleans yesterday, BP's Macondo well had leaked 3.19 million barrels of oil into the waters of the gulf, a figure at approximately the mid-point of the range set by the competing estimates from BP and the US government.

BP had claimed 2.45 million barrels went into the water, while the US government contended it was 4.19 million. The claims on both sides had been vetted by expert witnesses who made technical arguments in court in support of the estimates.

In Barbier's first decision from the trial, which he handed down last September, BP was found to have acted with gross negligence and wilful misconduct in the actions that caused the spill.

Meanwhile, AFP reported a final penalty would be determined beginning Tuesday at a trial to settle the exact sum.

Barbier concluded in September that the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig blowout, which killed 11 and spilled millions of barrels of oil into Gulf waters, occurred after inadequate care in drilling.

As BP pleaded guilty to the spill, the company agreed to pay the government $4.5 billion to settle criminal charges and also agreed in 2012 to settle damage claims by businesses and individuals for about $7.8 billion.

Meanwhile the company had paid close to $10 billion to companies, individuals and local authorities who agreed to not file suit and had spent around $14 billion on cleaning the badly damaged coast.

According to the National Wildlife Federation scientific studies on 14 different types of creatures affected by the spill showed that long-lasting harm was done to dolphins, sea turtles, tuna, loons and other animals in the region.