BP Oil-Spill Decision on Hold Until Late Summer

Third anniversary of blowout comes without resolution

HOUSTON -- BP Plc faced the third anniversary of the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20 with no sure knowledge of how much more it will have to pay government and private plaintiffs over the disaster.

Last year, BP agreed to pay an estimated $8.5 billion to settle lawsuits by most plaintiffs, as well as $4 billion to the U.S. government in criminal penalties. The company is also facing claims from plaintiffs who weren’t covered by last year’s settlement and as much as $17 billion in fines over violations of the U.S. Clean Water Act, according to a Bloomberg report.

What the company still may owe will hinge greatly on decisions by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who is overseeing litigation spurred by the April 20, 2010, blowout of BP’s Macondo well and the subsequent explosion that sent 4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf, the report stated.

Barbier will decide fault for the incident and whether BP or its contractors were grossly negligent, which could trigger higher damages or fines. As BP presented its last witness April 17 at the nonjury trial over liability for the accident, Barbier said he wouldn’t issue an immediate decision.

The judge said he would probably give lawyers for BP, its co-defendants, private party plaintiffs and the U.S. 60 days to submit their arguments and proposed findings to him. He said he would also provide 20 days for replies. Nothing will happen before the filings and the decision may linger beyond this summer.

Click here to read the full Bloomberg report.