The trial for the federal litigation spawned by BP’s massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico resumes today, with a focus on the company’s response to the deadly disaster.
At the start of the trial’s second phase, District Judge Carl Barbier is expected to hear two hours of opening statements from lawyers for BP and for Gulf Coast residents and businesses who claim the spill cost them money.
The second phase is divided into two segments: The first will explore the methods BP employed to cap the well.
The second is designed to help Judge Barbier determine how much oil spilled into the Gulf from BP’s blown-out well.
The first phase ended in April after eight weeks of evidence about the causes of the blowout.
BP insists it was properly prepared to respond to the disaster, but plaintiffs’ lawyers will argue the company could have capped the well much sooner if it had not ignored decades of warnings about the risks of a deep-water blowout.
The lawyers, who are teaming up with others for the five Gulf states and two of BP’s contractors for the second phase of the trial, also claim BP repeatedly lied to federal officials and withheld information about the volume of oil that was flowing from the well.
“It should pay the price for its choices. BP should be held accountable for the lengthy delay caused by its fraud,” they wrote in a pretrial court filing.
BP maintains its spill preparations complied with every government requirement and met industry standards.
But the April 20, 2010, blowout of its Macondo well a mile beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico and 50 miles off the Louisiana coast presented “unforeseen challenges,” the company’s lawyers said.
“With these uncertain and unique conditions, one overarching principle governed the team’s work: ’Don’t make it worse,”’ they said, saying BP deserved “recognition, not condemnation” for its spill response efforts.
The second phase is scheduled to last 16 days over four weeks. The last three weeks will focus on the question of how much oil spilled into the Gulf.
The Justice Department’s experts estimate 4.2 million barrels, or 176 million gallons, spilled into the Gulf. BP has urged the judge to use an estimate of 2.45 million barrels, or nearly 103 million gallons, in calculating any fines.
Both sides agree that 810,000 barrels, or 34 million gallons, escaped the well but was captured before it could pollute the Gulf.