Kyle Barnett Sep. 4, 2014, 5:52pm


NEW ORLEANS – BP PLC committed “gross negligence” in connection with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a federal judge has ruled, setting the energy giant up for heavy fines under the Clean Water Act.

The ruling, by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, will be appealed, the company said.

Barbier’s 153-page ruling detailed the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform in which 11 workers died and the subsequent failure of the blowout preventer that resulted in an 87-day discharge of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Barbier ruled that BP exercised “gross negligence” and “willful misconduct” in its activities leading up the blowout of the well and was responsible for 67 percent of the spill while subcontractor Transocean, the provider of the drilling rig, assumed 30 percent of the blame.

The ruling comes two days after Halliburton  – another subcontractor on BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig – agreed to settle their part of the case for $1 billion. Under Barbier’s ruling, Halliburton was deemed to be responsible for only three percent of the spill. However, of the three corporations, Barbier only found BP to be "reckless" while he found Halliburton and Transocean were "negligent."

Geoff Morell, a spokesman for BP, said the company intends to appeal.

“BP believes that the finding that it was grossly negligent with respect to the accident and that its activities at the Macondo well amounted to willful misconduct is not supported by the evidence at trial,’’ Morrell said in an emailed statement. "The law is clear that proving gross negligence is a very high bar that was not met in this case. BP believes that an impartial view of the record does not support the erroneous conclusion reached by the District Court."

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