Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (APC), partner of BP Plc (BP/) in the Macondo well project that led to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010, persuaded a judge to bar evidence about its knowledge of the well’s operations from the first phase of a trial that begins Feb. 27.
“Evidence of Anadarko’s knowledge of or access to information about Macondo well design and/or operations is irrelevant to any issue in the Phase I trial,” U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans ruled yesterday, according to court papers.
The April 2010 well blowout and explosion killed 11 workers and caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The accident spurred hundreds of lawsuits against London-based BP and its partners, including Transocean Ltd. (RIG) and Anadarko, which owned 25 percent of the well.
The judge’s ruling yesterday prevents the evidence from being shown in what he labeled the Phase I trial, which will determine the legal responsibility for the blast, as well as the ensuing fire and sinking of the drilling rig.
John Christiansen, a spokesman for Anadarko, didn’t immediately return a call for comment on Barbier’s ruling. Anadarko, based in The Woodlands, Texas, is the largest U.S. independent oil and natural-gas producer by market value.
Anadarko agreed in October to pay BP $4 billion to settle claims between the two companies over the spill.
Anadarko executives said in a June 2010 statement that BP, which operated the Macondo well, was responsible for the spill and that the disaster was the result of recklessness. BP had filed claims seeking to have Anadarko share in the financial fallout from the spill.
Wyn Hornbuckle, a spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department, said the government’s lawyers were reviewing Barbier’s decision to exclude the Anadarko evidence. Steve Herman, a New Orleans-based lawyer for plaintiffs suing BP and other defendants over the spill, didn’t immediately return calls or an e-mail seeking comment on the judge’s ruling. A spokesman for Transocean said the company had no comment.
Earlier this week, Barbier concluded that Anadarko and BP are liable for pollution violations under the federal Clean Water Act. That allows regulators to seek fines of as much as $1,100 per barrel of oil spilled into the Gulf during the incident.
The government estimates that 4.1 million barrels were spilled before the well was capped. BP set aside $3.5 billion for Clean Water Act fines, assuming $1,100 a barrel and its own estimate of 3.2 million barrels, according to an annual report extract posted on the company website.
The case is In re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, MDL-2179, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).