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BP to Appeal Negligence Ruling in 2010 Gulf Spill

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BP will appeal the ruling by a federal judge on Sept. 4 that the company was grossly negligent in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil well explosion that killed 11 workers and spilled millions of barrels of oil.

U.S. District Court Judge Carl J. Barbier of the Eastern District of Louisiana said in his decision that BP’s conduct was “reckless.” Barbier also ruled that Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig, and Halliburton, the service company that cemented the well, were negligent in the Gulf spill. However, the judge put most of the blame on BP, which could be fined up to $18 billion under the Clean Water Act.

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In a 153-page decision, Barbier wrote that BP repeatedly ignored warning signs that the well was unstable and made decisions that were “primarily driven by a desire to save time and money, rather than ensuring that the well was secure.”

BP issued a statement shortly after the court decision saying that it 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 statement said. “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, according to BP. The District Court will hold additional proceedings 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, according to the statement. 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 said it 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.

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