Anadarko Liable by Law for Gulf Oil Spill, U.S. Lawyers Say

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. is liable under federal oil pollution laws for environmental damage caused by the April 2010 blowout of the Macondo well and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill that followed, the U.S. government said.

The exploration and production unit of Anadarko, which owned most of the company’s 25 percent stake in the BP Plc well, asked a federal judge in New Orleans to dismiss it from a Justice Department lawsuit. The government claimed environmental-law violations in the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. It also sued other companies involved in the well, including BP.

The government asked U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to deny Anadarko E&P Co.’s motion to drop it from the case and find the Woodlands, Texas-based parent and its affiliate liable under the Oil Pollution Act and the Clean Water Act.

“Liability under OPA and CWA is so straightforward here that the court -- rather than dismissing the complaint -- should enter summary judgment in favor of the United States,” the government said. “Defendants are liable as a matter of law.”

John Christiansen, an Anadarko spokesman, said the company is reviewing the filing.

Any owner of an offshore lease that causes oil pollution is liable for damages or fines resulting from that spill, the U.S. said.

Shares of Lease

Anadarko held a 2.5 percent and the exploration unit a 22.5 percent share in the lease when the Macondo blew out and the BP oil spill began, the Justice Department said.

“These two sets of facts alone suffice to establish liability under both the Clean Water Act and OPA, because the elements of liability are few, liability is strict, and defenses are limited,” the government said.

Anadarko E&P in April asked to be dismissed from the case, contending it didn’t have an interest in the lease at the time of the accident. The unit assigned its interest to the parent company before the well blow-out, it said in court papers.

An assignment of an offshore lease or interest “is ineffective unless it is approved” by federal regulators, the U.S. said in court papers. The assignment to Anadarko E&P’s parent wasn’t approved by regulators until April 28, 2010, so the exploration unit “was a lessee on the day the discharge commenced and OPA liability accrued,” the U.S. said.

Government lawyers also said that the court shouldn’t view Anadarko and the E&P unit as separate entities with different liabilities. U.S. claims against either company “should not be dismissed on any ground until the relationships between the two Anadarko defendants is more fully explained,” the Justice Department said.

The case is U.S. v. BP Exploration & Production Inc., 10-04536, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans), combined in 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).

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