BP ‘lied’ over true extent of its Gulf oil disaster

Second phase of trial opens with claims of negligence and lack of preparation

BP last night stood accused of telling “outright lies” and withholding crucial evidence about the amount of oil flowing from the damaged Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico when it blew open in 2010.

As the second phase of the trial into the disaster opened in New Orleans, and with billions of dollars of potential fines in the balance, the oil giant’s lawyer, Mike Brock, said the company had done everything it could to cap the gushing well that was exposed following an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig that led to the deaths of 11 workers.

But Brian Barr, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said BP had failed to prepare for such an accident. In his opening statement, Mr Barr also said the evidence “will show BP’s outright lies caused the oil to flow” for 87 days. A lawyer for Transocean, the owner of the rig, also said BP had repeatedly withheld evidence about the rate at which oil was flowing.

For BP, Mr Brock countered that BP had not lied, rather that it “made reasonable engineering decisions based on what was known along each step of the way… That’s not fraud. That’s not gross negligence”.

The claims and counter-claims came on the first day of the second phase of the oil spill trial being overseen by New Orleans Judge Carl Barbier, a maritime law expert who is hearing the case without a jury.

The first phase was concluded earlier this year and focused on whether BP and its partners in the project were “grossly negligent” in relation to the incident aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig that led to the spill. The second phase is focused on the size of the spill and BP’s action to cap the flow of crude oil from the Macondo well. The final portion of the trial will focus on potential damages.

The key issue in the second phase is how much oil leaked out of the damaged well during the days it took to cap the flow. The US government’s estimate puts the amount of oil at 4.2 million barrels. BP, however, believes the figure is lower, closer to 2.45 million barrels.

The difference is critical, as under the US Clean Water Act, polluters face liabilities of up to $1,100 or $4,300 per barrel, with the higher cap applying in cases where the polluter is found to be grossly negligent.

If BP is found negligent and its estimate is rejected by Judge Barbier, it could face a potential fine of $18bn under the Clean Water Act. If the judge finds the company negligent and uses its estimate for the amount of oil spilled, the figure drops to around $10.5bn. If BP is found not to have been grossly negligent and its estimate is used, the potential maximum fine falls even further to $2.7bn.

Another fine mess: the legal ripples

Why is BP back in court?

The oil giant is back in court in New Orleans for the second phase of the oil spill trial. The first phase concluded earlier this year and focused on the question of whether BP or its partners in the Gulf of Mexico project were grossly negligent. The focus in the current phase is on the amount of oil that spewed out of the well. The different estimates currently on the table could inflate or reduce BP’s potential fines by billions of dollars.

But hasn’t BP already paid out billions in connection with the spill?

Tens of billions, in fact. It also resolved cases with most of the private plaintiffs. But the US federal government claims and those by the affected states around the Gulf were not resolved. The trial currently under way will help determine the level of fines under the US Clean Water Act. There is more to come.

What kind of fine could BP end up facing?

The worst case scenario is a maximum fine of around $18bn. The prospect of such a fine would arise if BP is found grossly negligent and the judge rejects the oil giant’s estimate of the oil that flowed from the damaged well. But the maximum fine could be as low $2.7bn if the rulings are in BP’s favour.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

Technical Support Analyst (C++, Windows, Linux, Perl, Graduate)

£30000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global leader in trading platforms and e...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice