BP Deepwater Horizon Civil Trial

August 31, 2013 by  

BP Deepwater Horizon Civil Trial, BP and Anadarko Petroleum Corp., which held a 25 percent interest in BP’s ill-fated Macondo oil and gas well, told the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals last week that they should not be fined under the Clean Water Act for the oil spill resulting from the Deepwater Horizon explosion and sinking.

The two hang their argument on a single word: “or.” That word appears in a section of the Clean Water Act that lists who can be fined for violating the pollution law. If their argument succeeds, the companies could escape billions of dollars in fines.

The section of the Clean Water Act at issue says: “Any person who is the owner, operator, or person in charge of any vessel, onshore facility or offshore facility from which oil or a hazardous substance is discharged …” is considered responsible for the fines to be levied under the law. The law calls for a maximum fine of $1,100 per barrel, if the party causing the spill is negligent, or as much as $4,300 a barrel if the party is found to be grossly negligent.

According to BP and Anadarko, the source of oil was the Deepwater Horizon and the pipe its crew installed connecting the well to the ship, making only its owner, Transocean, responsible under the law.

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