BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A federal judge has ruled that BP's reckless conduct resulted in the nation's worst offshore oil spill, leaving the company open to billions of dollars in penalties.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier's ruling Thursday could nearly quadruple the amount of civil penalties for polluting the Gulf of Mexico with oil from BP's Macondo well in 2010.
'The Court has now laid bare the full extent of the level of BP's misconduct,' said a statement from plaintiffs' counsel, James P. Roy and Stephen J. Herman. 'We hope that today's judgment will bring some measure of closure to the families of the eleven men who tragically lost their lives, and to the thousands of people and businesses still trying to recover from the spill.'
The father of one of the 11 victims killed in the explosion told Eyewitness News he would have been disappointed with anything less. Keith Jones said, 'This was not somebody slipping on a grape in the grocery store, this is not that kind of accident. this was an accident that was caused by decisions, over and over, by BP, with their eye on the bottom line and not on the lives of the men on that rig.'
'BP strongly disagrees with the decision issued today by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana and will immediately appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit,' said a statement from the company.
Barbier presided over a trial in 2013 to apportion blame for the spill that spewed oil from April 20 to mid-July 2010. Eleven men died when the well blew wild; BP already has agreed to billions of dollars in criminal fines.
Barbier says BP bears 67 percent of the blame for the spill. He says drilling rig owner Transocean Ltd. takes 30 percent of the blame, and cement contractor Halliburton Energy Service takes 3 percent.
Jones told Eyewitness News he hopes BP gets hit with the penalty it deserves. 'When I testified before Congress, years ago, I said that they must hit them where their heart would be if they had a heart, and that's dollar signs for BP,' he said.
Below is BP's full statement on the ruling:
BP strongly disagrees with the decision issued today by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana and will immediately appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
BP believes that the finding that it was grossly negligent with respect to the accident and that its activities at the Macondo well amounted to willful misconduct is not supported by the evidence at trial. The law is clear that proving gross negligence is a very high bar that was not met in this case. BP believes that an impartial view of the record does not support the erroneous conclusion reached by the District Court.
The Court has not yet ruled on the number of barrels spilled and no penalty has yet been determined. The District Court will hold additional proceedings, which are currently scheduled to begin in January 2015, to consider the application of statutory penalty factors in assessing a per-barrel Clean Water Act penalty. The Clean Water Act requires the District Court to consider a number of factors in determining an appropriate penalty. The statutory maximum penalty is $1,100 per barrel where the court finds simple negligence and $4,300 per barrel where the court finds gross negligence or willful misconduct. During the penalty proceedings, BP will seek to show that its conduct merits a penalty that is less than the applicable maximum after application of the statutory factors.
BP is reviewing the decision and will issue a further statement as soon as possible.