AP is reporting: “BP bears the majority of responsibility among the companies involved in the nation’s worst offshore oil spill, a federal judge ruled Thursday, citing the energy giant’s reckless conduct in a ruling that exposes the company to billions of dollars in penalties.” See story and PDF of decision.
HUGH KAUFMAN, hughbkaufman at comcast.net
A noted expert and whistleblower at the Environmental Protection Agency, Kaufman said today: “Judge Carl Barbier has made a fair and reasoned decision, based on the facts. This means BP would have to pay a Clean Water Act penalty of over $4,000 per barrel of oil spilled instead of $1,000 per barrel or over $12 billion more in penalties. The next phase of the trial is also extremely important. Judge Barbier will determine how many millions of barrels of oil BP actually released in the spill. The government says BP spilled well over 4 million barrels, BP says just over 2 million barrels. Billions of dollars are also in play on that upcoming decision.” Kaufman is featured in the documentary “The Big Fix.” See excerpt on Vimeo.
ANTONIA JUHASZ, antoniajuhasz at gmail.com,
Author of Black Tide: the Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill, Juhasz is currently writing a feature article for Harper’s Magazine on the impacts of the disaster on the deep ocean following her participation in a submarine dive to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico at the site of the spill, which she discussed in a blog for Harper’s in April.
She said today: “Judge Barbier’s decision was both profound and significant. It demonstrates the lack of safety of all existing offshore oil operations and severely challenges the notion that those activities should be allowed to expand to areas such as the Atlantic coast and in more of the Arctic. The judge found that BP routinely put profit over prudence, people, safety, and the environment and the result was and remains catastrophic. Significantly, the judge found all three companies — BP, Halliburton, and Transocean — three of the largest offshore oil companies in the world — ALL guilty of causing this disaster and acting with negligence ultimately leading to the largest offshore oil spill in history and the deaths of eleven men.
“The fact that all of these companies were to blame means this is more than the problem of just one ‘bad apple.’ Tragically, yesterday, as this judgement was being handed down, a worker on a BP oil rig in the North Sea died during routine maintenance activities, highlighting anew the ongoing risks to these operations.
“The judge ruled that as leasee and operator, BP is ultimately responsible for the Gulf oil disaster and that it acted with ‘gross negligence’ and ‘willful misconduct.’ Over and over again the judge ruled that BP made decisions that were ‘profit-driven’ and an ‘extreme deviation from the standard of care and a conscious disregard for known risks.’
“By finding BP guilty of gross negligence, as the judge enters the third and final stage of the civil trial in January, BP can now be held liable for the highest possible fee under the Clean Water Act, as high as $4,300 per barrel of oil spilled, versus just $1,100 if it had only been found guilty of ‘negligence.’ BP could (and should) therefore face a fine of almost $18 billion for the 4.2 million barrels of oil released into the Gulf (5 million barrels of oil spilled from the Macondo well, but a tiny portion was recovered before entering the water). This does not include the additional fines BP will face once the Natural Resource Damage Assessment is concluded for the total environmental harm caused, which should total many more billions of dollars. The judge also left open the possibility that BP could face punitive damages in the future.” Juhasz appeared on “Democracy Now!” this morning.