The civil trial is scheduled to begin on Monday against UK oil giant BP over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the following environmental disaster. It's been reported the US and the Gulf states offered to settle the case with BP for $16 billion.
The US Department of Justice is determined to secure the maximum fine of $17.6 billion against BP, the biggest civil fine in history. The minimum possible penalty is estimated at about $4.5 billion.
It’s unclear if the $16 billion deal has been formally offered to the oil giant by the US and the Gulf states. If however the parties agree on a settlement, it will cover BP’s potential liabilities under the Clean Water Act and payments under the Natural Resources Damage Assessment and spare extra courtroom time and publicity, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday.
During the first trial stage starting on Monday the court will determine the causes of the fault on the oil rig off the US coast. The 2010 explosion claimed 11 lives and released 4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over 84 days.
In the second stage of the hearing the court will distribute responsibility among the involved parties, including BP, contractor Halliburton, rig operator Transocean, and Cameron International the manufacturer of the blowout preventers responsible for stopping oil leaks, the BBC reports.
“First of all, they will have to start telling the truth,” Garret Graves, the Chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of the State of Louisiana, told the BBC. “Second, let's just say that's not going to go over so well for BP. Even BP's money can't buy revisionist history.”
The court will then determine whether BP was simply negligent or grossly negligent to let the disaster happen. This decision will significantly influence the level of the fines. If found simply negligent, the company will be subjected to a $4.5 billion fine. If a gross negligence verdict is ruled, BP will have to pay $17.6 billion.
Last year BP settled criminal charges for $4.5 billion.
According to the BBC the risks for both BP and the US are huge. While BP’s name and future deals are at stake the US spending a lot of money on the BP, thus a “grossly negligent” verdict is essential.