On Monday, BP and the Justice Department will be back in federal court in New Orleans.
For four weeks, they’ll argue about how much oil was spilled from blowout of the Deepwater Horizon, and if simple negligence was to blame, or gross negligence.
Under the Clean Water Act, fines for water pollution can range from $1,100 for every barrel spilled through simple negligence to as much as $4,300 a barrel if there was gross negligence.
The Justice Department believes 4.2 million barrels of oil went into the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days after the blowout.
BP contends the amount was about 2.45 million barrels. The company also says it was adequately for a blowout and did everything reasonable under the circumstances.
If the government prevails on its argument that gross negligence led to a spill of 4.2 million barrels, BP’s fine could be $18 billion or more.
If BP prevails, fines would be about $2.7 billion.
Last year, BP pleaded guilty to 14 criminal charges, including manslaughter. It also admitted negligence in its technical reading of test data before the explosion.
It paid $4.5 billion in criminal fines and other penalties.
Four BP employees are now facing criminal charges.
The company’s costs for clean up and victim’s compensation has already hit $42 billion.