A federal appeals court ruled Monday that a former BP executive can be tried for obstructing a congressional investigation into the 2010 Gulf oil spill.
David Rainey allegedly failed to disclose information from BP that showed how much crude oil might be spilling into the Gulf after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion.
Lawyers for Rainey had argued that he could not be tried under the federal law, which they said applied only to testimony to congressional committees and not subcommittees.
Trial judge Kurt Engelhardt had agreed and ruled in favor of Rainey.
But a panel of three judges from the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans reversed the ruling and said Rainey could face charges for withholding information from a congressional subcommittee..
The blowout of BP’s Macondo well off the coast of Louisiana in April 2010 killed 11 workers and caused the biggest ocean spill in U.S. history.
Prosecutors said that during a May 4, 2010 congressional hearing, Rainey withheld information about the estimated flow rate from the damaged Macondo well.
“They also claim Rainey responded to a letter from a subcommittee chairman, then-Rep. Edward Markey, with false and misleading information about flow-rate estimates. Markey is now a Democratic senator from Massachusetts,” the AP said.
Rainey has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Following Monday’s appeal court ruling, Rainey now faces a trial in the federal district court.
In December last year, Kurt Mix, a former BP drilling engineer, was convicted of destroying evidence about the size of the oil spill. But in June he was granted a new trial because of juror misconduct.
Two BP well site leaders — Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine — have pleaded not guilty to manslaughter charges and still face trials.
BP pleaded guilty in 2012 to 14 offenses — including 11 felony counts of seaman manslaughter, single misdemeanors under the Clean Water Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and a felony count for obstruction of Congress by misrepresenting the size of the spill.
The company agreed to pay $4 billion to resolve the federal criminal charges.