BP Ruling: Largest Oil Spill Due To ‘Gross Negligence’

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier said BP committed a series of negligent acts.

Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon April 21, 2010. Photo credit: U.S. Coast Guard


The largest oil spill in American history was the result of “gross negligence” on the part of BP. That’s the ruling today from a federal judge in New Orleans.

It comes more than four years after the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion that killed 11 workers and poured millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

The ruling of misconduct could quadruple the civil penalties BP must pay to the federal government.

In his 152-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier said BP committed a series of negligent acts. Those acts include pumping cement into the Macondo well without a successful stability test. 

Judge Barbier ruling that BP was “reckless” makes the company subject to larger penalties under the Clean Water Act. 

But the final amount won’t be known until the court rules on how much oil was spilled, and whether BP should pay as much as $4,300 a barrel for misconduct. That could bring the total to almost $18 billion. 

BP has already paid $70 billion in various spill-related expenses, along with civil and criminal penalties.

In a written response to today’s ruling, BP says the evidence of what happened at the Macondo well did not amount to willful misconduct, and it intends to file an appeal with the Fifth Circuit. 

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David Pitman

David Pitman


David was HPM's local Morning Edition host from 2009 to 2020 — when he was moved to the position of Technical Director of Houston Matters with Craig Cohen, and Town Square with Ernie Manouse. David has extensive public and commercial broadcast journalism and production experience dating back to 1993 –...

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