BP Faces $52B in Gulf Spill Fines

With trial to begin tomorrow, lawyers negotiating furiously
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 26, 2012 5:45 AM CST

(Newser) – With the trials set to begin tomorrow for BP and the other companies involved in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, BP alone could conceivably face up to $52 billion in fines and compensation, reports the AP. Under the Clean Water Act, which requires a minimum of $1,100 per barrel of spilled oil, but quadruple that amount for gross negligence, BP could owe up to $21 billion. And under the Oil Pollution Act, which requires companies to pay for the restoration of the environment hurt by their pollution, BP could face another $31 billion. "This one is off the charts in terms of size and significance," says the director of an environmental watchdog group.

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BP is expected to argue that TransOcean and Halliburton Energy are also responsible, and that the spill's damage was minimized by the region's warm waters, oil-eating bacteria, and other factors. Plus the Gulf has already been damaged by other oil spills, so it is hard to pin down exactly what damage was caused by this spill. "There is going to be a lot of voodoo there," says an environmental lawyer about how damage payouts are determined. But BP's CEO Bob Dudley, in his first interview since taking over in 2010, said BP had stepped up its safety protections since the accident. “I think we are now using the toughest standards in the world for floating drilling rigs everywhere,” Dudley tells the Telegraph. (Read more Bob Dudley stories.)

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