BP claimed the government was withholding evidence that would show the oil spill from the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico was smaller than claimed. BP said last month it had identified 10,000 documents that relate to estimates of the April 2010 spill.
The U.S. said today that it is “willing to produce the 100 documents identified by BP” in court papers on the oil flow and “work with BP to produce the remaining, similar documents” designated as privileged. Privileged documents don’t have to be turned over in the pretrial evidence-gathering process. BP should also turn over its internal documents about the size of the spill, government lawyers said.
“It would be unfair for BP to seek production of the United States’ internal flow estimates while claiming that BP’s own flow rate analyses are protected,” they said court papers filed today in federal court in New Orleans.
The blowout and explosion killed 11 workers and caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The accident prompted hundreds of lawsuits against BP and its partners. BP said March 2 it would pay at least $7.8 billion to resolve private plaintiffs’ claims for economic loss, property damage and injuries.
A government suit accusing BP of violating pollution laws is pending. The Clean Water Act allows per-barrel-spilled fines of as much as $1,100 on a finding of strict, or automatic, liability and as much as $4,300 for gross negligence.
The U.S. estimated in August 2010 that 4.9 million barrels of oil, plus or minus 10 percent, spilled into the Gulf after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded.
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