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Civil Trial Begins Monday for BP's Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

PHOTO: Trial is set to begin Monday in the civil case against BP for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This photo was taken 2 years after the spill and environmentalists say the long-term impact is still unknown. CREDIT: Craig Guillot/NWF
PHOTO: Trial is set to begin Monday in the civil case against BP for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This photo was taken 2 years after the spill and environmentalists say the long-term impact is still unknown. CREDIT: Craig Guillot/NWF
February 22, 2013

AUSTIN, Texas – There is a renewed call to make sure BP is held accountable, as the civil trial for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster nears.

Court proceedings are set to start Monday in New Orleans, but it is possible that the trial will be averted with a settlement between BP and the U.S. Department of Justice.

John Kostyack, executive director of Wildlife Conservation and Global Warming with National Wildlife Federation, has been closely following the case.

"Our assessment is that BP's liability is very substantial,” he says. “The stakes are too high to avoid a public debate and discussion, and now is the time to have that discussion."

Kostyack says by using data from the Exxon Valdez spill and applying it to Deepwater, BP's civil liability should be over $40 billion. The criminal provisions from the spill were settled last year for $4.5 billion.

In addition to providing funds to restore the Gulf to the conditions that existed before the spill, Kostyack says any penalty against BP must be high enough to make sure this does not happen again.

"The Department of Justice has a responsibility to set a penalty amount that factors in BP's assets, which we know are nearly $300 billion,” he says, “and the risks that they will continue business as usual if their bottom-line is not affected by any settlement."

It was April 20, 2010 when there was an explosion on the Deepwater rig, killing 11 people and ultimately sending more than 4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf in what is the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.

Now, nearly three-years later, Brian Moore, legislative director of the National Audubon Society, says the full impact still isn't known, and people of the Gulf are waiting for BP to take care of business.

"I've just finished two days of attending public meetings held by the federal government,” he says. “And I can tell you first-hand that the people of the Gulf do not feel yet like justice has yet been served. I can also tell you that the damage caused to the environment is significant and much needs to be done to repair the damage."

This first phase of the trial will focus on the causes of the disaster and who should be held responsible. The Department of Justice has concluded that BP was grossly negligent. BP says it was not and that the spill was a tragic accident resulting from multiple causes and involving multiple parties.


John Michaelson, Public News Service - TX