By Laurel Brubaker Calkins, Margaret Cronin Fisk and Jef Feeley
Jan. 12 (Bloomberg) –- BP Plc is seeking a reduction of as
much as $3.4 billion in the fine it may have to pay for
pollution caused by the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The company wants credit for collecting at least 800,000
barrels of spilled oil, according to a court filing. London-
based BP is facing a maximum fine of more than $20 billion,
depending on how much the company is fined per barrel spilled.
The request came as a federal judge in New Orleans approved the
medical-benefits portion of a proposed $7.8 billion partial
settlement of spill-related claims.
About 4.9 million barrels gushed from BP’s Macondo well off
the Louisiana coast, which blew out in April 2010, according to
the government. The company and the government agree that BP
captured directly from the wellhead at least 810,000 barrels of
that oil, which was piped to the surface and shipped to shore or
burned off by flares, according to BP’s filing yesterday in
federal court in New Orleans.
“The oil that BP successfully captured from the Macondo
reservoir without it entering the Gulf of Mexico waters should
not be considered in the court’s future determination of Clean
Water Act civil penalties,” Scott Dean, a BP spokesman, said in
an e-mailed statement. “BP therefore seeks to narrow the issues
in dispute by showing that whatever the final number of barrels
released from the reservoir is proven to be, BP should not be
liable for civil penalties for at least 810,000 barrels of
Under the U.S. Clean Water Act, polluters face a penalty
ranging from $1,100 to $4,300 per barrel of oil spilled,
depending on a variety of factors including whether the polluter
acted in a grossly negligent or reckless manner in causing the
Wyn Hornbuckle, a spokesman for the Justice Department,
declined to comment on BP’s request yesterday.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans has
scheduled a non-jury trial to begin Feb. 25 to determine
liability for the spill. Barbier will hold a separate bench
trial, presently set to begin in August, to determine the volume
of the spill and evaluate the company’s efforts to stop it.
The U.S. sued BP and Anadarko Petroleum Corp., as co-owners
of the blown well, and Transocean Ltd., owner of the Deepwater
Horizon rig that drilled the well, for civil pollution fines,
spill cleanup costs and natural resources damages.
BP has repeatedly denied it acted with gross negligence,
which could trigger the maximum range of the pollution fine. In
November, the company reached a settlement with the U.S. Justice
Department of all criminal charges stemming from the spill. That
plea deal included a $4 billion criminal penalty and a related
$525 million settlement with U.S. securities regulators over
BP’s misrepresentation of the size of the spill.
This month, Transocean reached a $1.4 billion settlement
with the U.S. government over allegations tied to the spill. As
part of the settlement, Transocean agreed to plead guilty to one
misdemeanor count of violating the Clean Water Act and pay $400
million in criminal penalties.
The blowout and explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon
killed 11 workers. The accident prompted hundreds of lawsuits
against BP; Vernier, Switzerland-based Transocean; and Houston-
based Halliburton Co., which provided cementing services.
The proposed partial settlement of private claims was
reached March 2, days before a trial on liability for the spill
was set to begin. While BP estimates the accord to be worth at
least $7.8 billion, it doesn’t have a cap on potential
The medical benefits portion of that settlement resolves
the claims of clean-up workers and residents of certain Gulf
Coast beachfront and wetlands areas who contend they sustained
personal injuries related to exposure to oil spilled or to
chemical dispersants used during the clean-up efforts, according
to court papers.
The agreement provides for medical monitoring of possible
effects from the exposure, as well as “preservation of class
members’ rights to sue BP for compensatory damages for physical
conditions that manifest at a later date,” the company said in
an Aug. 13 filing seeking approval of the pact.
Without the settlement, “plaintiffs face significant
further expenses in time, money, and resources -- with no
assurance of recovery,” Barbier wrote in his 91-page decision
approving the deal.
Barbier previously approved the economic loss and property
damage portion of the settlement, which resolved most private
plaintiffs’ claims. The settlement doesn’t cover suits brought
by the U.S. government and the states of Alabama and Louisiana.
“We believe that this settlement and the economic loss and
property damage settlement, approved on Dec. 21, 2012, are good
for the people, businesses and communities of the Gulf and are
in the best interests of BP’s stakeholders,” Geoff Morrell, a
spokesman for BP, said in an e-mailed statement.
Stephen Herman and James Roy, two of the lead lawyers
representing oil-spill claimants, said they were pleased with
the court’s ruling.
“Clean-up workers, coastal residents -- and the Gulf Coast
region at-large will benefit greatly from the myriad programs
offered by the medical benefits settlement,” they said in an e-
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).
For Related News and Information:
Top Stories: TOP
Link to Company News: BP/ LN CN
Legal headlines: TLAW
Bloomberg legal resources: BLAW
--Editors: Peter Blumberg, Michael Hytha
To contact the reporters on this story:
Margaret Cronin Fisk in Detroit at +1-248-827-2947 or
Jef Feeley in Wilmington, Delaware at +1-302-661-7616 or
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Michael Hytha at +1-415-617-7137 or