oil rig

Testimony in First Portion of Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Trial Concludes This Week

oil rigOn Wednesday, April 25, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier finished hearing testimony for the first part of a trial intended to determine who is guilty for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This portion of the trial spanned eight weeks and was not heard by a jury, and its purpose is to figure out what caused the blowout and whether BP, the well owner, acted with gross negligence. While “negligence” is a failure to exercise caution that would normally be expected of a reasonable person, a finding of “gross negligence” would mean that BP’s actions showed extreme recklessness and disregard for safety.

A report from the National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill that made headlines over two years ago asserted that BP, Halliburton (who managed the well-sealing operation) and Transocean (the rig owner) had all contributed to the chances of a blowout. Their actions, the government implied, were likely to have been motivated by a desire to save the companies time and money. The commission did find, however, that BP held a larger portion of the responsibility than either Transocean or Halliburton.

At the beginning of March, Transocean officially made accusations against BP in court, saying that BP purposefully underestimated flow numbers, and that they provided incorrect documents and analysis to outsiders in an attempt to mislead them about the flow rate. Transocean used the fact that BP has pled guilty to criminal charges to try to prove that BP knew that more oil was flowing than they had stated. BP has already agreed to pay $4 billion in criminal penalties, as well as another $24 billion in other expenses, including cleanup and compensation to victims of the spill.

Randy Ezell, the first rig worker to testify against BP, said that his employer Transocean was not ultimately responsible for the explosion. Mr. Ezell essentially said that while employees of Transocean may have missed signs of a problem or misinterpreted test results, BP’s well site leaders were the ones in charge of deciding which tests were run and reading the results correctly.

BP’s position is that it made mistakes, but that it was not grossly negligent or solely responsible. BP could be liable for up to $18 billion under the Clean Water Act and other environmental regulations if gross negligence is found.

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