WASHINGTON, February 25 (RIA Novosti) – The trial against British oil giant BP began Monday in the United States, where a federal judge is set to determine whether the company was “grossly negligent” in its disastrous 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
BP is facing $17 billion in possible fines should the judge rule that it was grossly negligent in the 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that resulted in millions of barrels of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico.
The explosion killed 11 rig workers, and the ensuing spill contaminated hundreds of square miles of water, leading to widespread death and destruction of wildlife in the gulf and along the US coast and damaging many businesses.
It took almost three months to cap the well after the explosion and halt the flow of oil into the Gulf.
Monday’s proceedings in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana marked the beginning of the first part of the civil trial, in which Judge Carl Barbier will determine the company’s culpability.
The second part of the trial will determine the amount of the fine BP might pay as compensation for environmental damage.
The plaintiffs include the federal government, governments from the individual states along the US Gulf Coast, and representatives of businesses in those states.
Federal and state officials had proposed a last-minute $16 billion settlement with BP to pay for environmental damage and restoration work, The New York Times reported on its website Sunday evening, though the trial opened up with a statement from the plaintiffs’ attorneys Monday morning.
Attorney Jim Roy, who is representing the individuals and businesses affected by the disaster, told the court Monday morning that the catastrophe was preventable and that evidence would demonstrate BP’s gross negligence, the local news website Alabama Live reported.
BP general counsel Rupert Bondy said last week that “gross negligence is a very high bar that BP believes cannot be met in this case.”
“This was a tragic accident, resulting from multiple causes and involving multiple parties,” Bondy said in a statement. “We firmly believe we were not grossly negligent.”
Attorneys from the oil-services company Halliburton and the rig’s operator, Transocean, are also set to argue in the case that BP was at fault.
In November, BP accepted criminal liability for the spill and agreed to pay a $4.5 billion settlement with the US federal government, the largest criminal penalty in the nation’s history.
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