Catherine Cumming, MJLST Staff Member
Though the Deepwater Horizon spill occurred nearly five years ago, the civil trial over disaster’s environmental and economic effects continues. This past week, the U.S. government continued to build its case against BP, arguing that BP should pay the maximum Clean Water Act penalty of $13.7 billion. The Federal prosecutor brought in expert witnesses to describe the spill’s devastating environmental and economic effects on the Gulf. In addition to arguing that BP deserves to pay the $13.7 billion penalty, the Federal prosecutors believe that BP can pay this fine. To support its argument, the U.S. government brought in financial expert Ian Ratner to testify that BP is financially able to pay the Clean Water Act Penalty. While BP is fighting for a lower penalty of approximately $3.19 billion, the statutory minimum, Ratner’s financial analysis supports a higher penalty. In fact, BP’s assets have increased since the 2010 spill. As of June 30, 2014, BP’s assets totaled $315 billion, “up from the $236 billion the year before the spill.”
On Monday, January 26, the trail resumes and BP begins calling its witnesses. It is likely that BP will continue to argue, “that the court should consider BP XP and its resources, rather than those of the larger parent group [BP], when determining a penalty. The smaller drilling subsidiary [BP XP] is the named defendant in the case.” Anadarko, a co-owner of the failed oil well, argues “it had no role in the operation of the well and should not have to pay anything.” The briefs are expected to be filed in April with a ruling from U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to follow.
As the trial progresses and Deepwater Horizon spill nears its five year anniversary, readers should look at The BP Blowout and the Social and Environmental Erosion of the Louisiana Coast, which discusses the troubles the Gulf and its communities faced before the spill as well as how the spill exacerbated these issues. Daniel A. Farber believes that the situation of the Gulf is a preview of future problems that the United States and world will face in years to come. Farber writes “there are many small initiatives that can cumulatively begin to make inroads on the Gulf’s problems, including, most obviously, efforts to ensure that the BP oil spill is not followed by similar disasters.” Though MJLST published this article in 2012, Farber’s analysis and proposal are pertinent in today’s environmental and economic discussions, particularly those related to the legislature’s actions regarding the Keystone XL Pipeline.