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20 Feb 2013

Anna Fifield, Financial Times

BP and oil-spill states prepare to fight [USA]

The long-awaited trial to assess BP’s liability for civil penalties and environmental damages following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster is set to start in New Orleans next week after a year-long delay. It comes after the oil group agreed in November to pay $4.5bn to settle criminal charges relating to the months-long spill, which claimed the lives of 11 men and became the US’s worst environmental disaster. But the civil trial will probably prove much more complicated, and not just because the court has to decide whether BP is liable for simple or gross negligence for its actions that caused the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig. The distinction makes the difference between a fine in the low single billions or one beyond $20bn…But the Gulf coast states and towns affected by the spill have claimed an additional $34bn in damages under the Oil Pollution Act, saying that they cannot know what the long-term effects of the spill will be on their coastline…BP is preparing to push back, with Rupert Bondy, the oil company’s general counsel, this week telling the FT that “in a way we are looking forward to the trial” so it can argue its case.

Part of the following timelines

USA: BP & Gulf of Mexico states prepare for trial to assess BP's civil liability & environmental damages related to Deepwater Horizon oil disaster

US Deepwater Horizon explosion & oil spill lawsuits