Today's NewsIn a prominent home-page statement on its web site, BP said it “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.

A "very high bar"

“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.”

The U.S District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana findings and conclusions document states:

“The Court’s conclusions relative to the Phase One trial are summarized below:

Enhanced civil penalties

“BP Exploration & Production, Inc. (“BPXP”) is subject to enhanced civil penalties under the Clean Water Act (“CWA”), 33 U.S.C. § 1321(b)(7)(D), as the discharge of oil was the result of BPXP’s gross negligence and BPXP’s willful misconduct.299 .

“BP (meaning BPXP and BP America Production Company, but not BP p.l.c.), Transocean (meaning Transocean Holdings LLC, Transocean Deepwater Inc., and Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc., but not Transocean Ltd. or Triton Asset Leasing GmbH) and Halliburton (meaning Halliburton Energy Service, Inc. and Halliburton’s Sperry division) are each liable under general maritime law for the blowout, explosion, and oil spill. BP’s conduct was reckless. Transocean’s conduct was negligent. Halliburton’s conduct was negligent. Fault is apportioned as follows:

BP: 67%; Transocean: 30%; Halliburton: 3%.”

Four million barrels of oil released

Press reports estimate BP could be liable for Clean Water Act penalties reaching approximately $18 billion dollars.

Federal officials currently estimate that nearly 4.9 million barrels of oil were released during the spill, but BP says that number is closer to 3.7 million.

In his 153-page ruling, Judge Carol Barbier said BP made "profit-driven decisions" during the drilling of the well that led to the deadly blowout.

"These instances of negligence, taken together, evince an extreme deviation from the standard of care and a conscious disregard of known risks," he wrote.