In New Orleans, phase two of the trial concerning the BP oil spill of 2010 started up Monday. Federal officials are claiming BP lied and withheld critical information regarding the actual amount of oil that was spilling into the Gulf of Mexico. BP’s response to the disaster is the focal point of this portion of the trial, and sorting through the allegations of negligence by BP to prevent a spill like this, is under scrutiny.
Attorney for BP, Mike Brock denied any wrongdoing by BP, and claimed no lies or misrepresentations had been given. ‘‘It made reasonable engineering decisions based on what was known along each step of the way,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s not fraud. That’s not gross negligence.’’ Brock also told the court his client’s response to the oil spill had been “extraordinary,” and the spill had been much bigger than anyone could have predicted.
BP maintained that its plan to control and stop the spill was properly executed, but plaintiff’s attorney Brian Barr argued the oil company disregarded years of warnings concerning deep-water blowouts.
The state’s argument is that 4.2 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico during an almost 90 day period. BP counters that claim with an estimated 2.4 million barrels. Judge Carl J. Barbier’s job will be to sort out if there was gross negligence on BP’s part, and if they were adequately prepared for such a disaster.
Just last year, BP admitted to negligence, manslaughter and many other criminal charges and agreed to pay $4.5 billion in fines and penalties. There are still criminal charges pending in this case, and victims are still filing claims for damages.
Estimated fines if Judge Barbier rules in favor of the government could amount to more than $18 billion, leaving this London based Oil Company struggling to stay above water, financially.
The first phase of the trial was filled with the mistakes made by BP and the steps that led to the blowout. High-ranking executives as well as rig workers took the stand explaining each of their near death experiences during the spill, describing mistakes made before and after the spill. Phase two, however, will be testimony by dueling experts in the technical aspects of the case.
As of Monday morning, no penalty phase has been scheduled.
Written by: Amy Magness Whatley