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

PHOTO: Trial is set to begin today 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 today 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 25, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - There is a renewed call to make sure BP is held accountable, as the civil trial for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster of 2010 is set to begin today in New Orleans. It's also possible that the trial will be averted with a last-minute settlement between BP and the Department of Justice.

Either way, said John Kostyack, executive director, Wildlife Conservation and Global Warming, at the National Wildlife Federation, any penalty must be high enough to restore the Gulf, while also making sure this doesn't 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, and the risks that they will continue business as usual if their bottom line is not affected by any settlement," Kostyack declared.

Kostyack said that by using data from the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska and applying it to Deepwater, BP's civil liability should be over $40 billion. Some recent reports suggest a possible settlement in the $16 billion range. The criminal provisions from the spill were settled last year, with BP paying $4.5 billion.

It was April 20 of 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, executive director of the National Audubon Society, says the full effect still isn't known, and Gulf residents are waiting for BP to take care of business.

"I've just finished two days of attending public meetings held by the federal government, and I can tell you first-hand that the people of the Gulf do not feel yet like justice has yet been served," Moore charged. "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 claimed that the spill was a tragic accident resulting from multiple causes and involving multiple parties.

More information from the DOJ at is at 1.usa.gov/eILeeQ and the statement from BP is at bit.ly/ZcMcAD.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - TN