Image courtesy of Dr. Oscar Garcia / Florida State University.

A federal judge capped BP’s maximum fine for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill at $13.7 billion Thursday after finding the U.S. government over estimated the size of the spill.

Federal judge Carl Barbier pegged the size of the 2010 spill at 3.19 million barrels, well under the government’s initial estimate of 4.09 million barrels.

The ruling slashed the maximum penalty that can be imposed under the Clean Water Act by nearly $5 billion from initial estimates of $18 billion.

In his ruling, Barbier said BP’s response to the spill was not grossly negligent but stuck to his earlier opinion that the company demonstrated gross negligence leading up to the Macando well blowout that caused the spill and killed 11 people.

U.S. listed shares in BP rose one point in after hours trading to $36.20 per share.

BP could face further penalties from other claims and a Natural Resources Damage Assessment, Reuters said.

The company has already earmarked $42 billion for clean up efforts, fines and compensation.

In September, Barbier found BP grossly negligent and guilty of willful misconduct for the spill.

Texas-based Halliburton and Switzerland-based Transocean were found negligent but not reckless.

The judge divided fault for the spill at 67 percent for BP, 30 percent for Transocean and 3 percent for Halliburton.

BP is currently appealing that decision.

The penalty phase of the BP trial is set to start on January 20.


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