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10 Reasons Why BP Got Off and Offshore Oil Drilling Just Got More Dangerous.

by Antonia JuhaszRolling Stone
March 12th, 2015

10 Reasons Why BP Got Off and Offshore Oil Drilling Just Got More Dangerous

Recent rulings in the civil trial against the oil giant are deeply misguided


On January 27th, as the U.S. Justice Department expounded upon the catastrophic harms of offshore oil drilling in the trial against BP for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, President Obama reneged on a 2008 campaign pledge by proposing to open up a vast stretch of the Atlantic Coast to offshore oil drilling for the first time.

Doing so would be tragic. Recent judgments in the civil trial against BP, which has entered its third and final phase in a New Orleans court, will not only result in a significantly reduced fine for BP, but may also mean that no meaningful regulatory changes are implemented to reduce the likelihood of another similar disaster.

Press attention has largely focused on U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier's January 15th finding that nearly one million fewer barrels of oil were released into the Gulf than scientists working for the federal government had concluded. Even more significant, however, was Barbier's concurrent finding that BP was not grossly negligent in its planning or preparation for a deepwater blowout or oil spill – dramatically lowering the stakes in how BP will be punished for its inability to stop or deal with the largest offshore drilling oil spill in history.

In September, Barbier had previously found BP grossly negligent for causing the April 20th, 2010 blowout of the Macondo oil well, the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oilrig, and the initiation of the oil spill. This enables him to fine BP as much as $4,300 per barrel of oil spilled under the U.S. Clean Water Act, though he is not required to do so. The latest rulings now help guide his determination of exactly how much that fine will be.

They are, however, misguided. They mean that even though Barbier found BP liable for causing the blowout by making decisions "primarily driven by a desire to save time and money" which were "dangerous" and "motivated by profit," the company will not be liable for punitive damages and will be fined far less than the $18 billion originally sought by the government – at least one expert has predicted the fine could be as low as $3.5 billion. But it could be even less. In a statement, BP says that it is continuing to review the Court's decision and "believes that considering all the statutory penalty factors together weighs in favor of a penalty at the lower end of the statutory range" – which is a mere $140,000. The ruling also suggests that critical safety improvements are now far less likely to occur.

1. BP Knew

READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE ON ROLLING STONE'S WEBSITE: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/10-reasons-why-bp-got-off-and-offshore-oil-drilling-just-got-more-dangerous-20150312#ixzz3UHqonGNu
BP Deepwater Oil Spill
Contractor planes spray chemical dispersant over oil coated Gulf of Mexico waters at the site of a massive oil spill following the sinking of the BP operated Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig on April 27th, 2010. Benjamin Lowy/Getty