BP Challenge to Oil Spill Size Could Affect Fine
December 6, 2010
BP is challenging the U.S. government''s estimates of how much oil flowed from the runaway well deep below the Gulf of Mexico, reports the Associated Press. The argument could help BP reduce the federal pollution fines by billions of dollars. BP''s lawyers are arguing that the government overstated the spill by 20 to 50 percent, staffers working for the presidential oil spill commission said. In a 10-page document obtained by The Associated Press, BP says the government''s spill estimate of 206 million gallons is "overstated by a significant amount" and the company said any consensus around that number is premature and inaccurate. The company submitted the document to the commission, the Justice Department and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In a statement, the company said the government''s estimates failed to account for equipment that could obstruct the flow of oil and gas, such as the blowout preventer, making its numbers "highly unreliable." BP''s request could save it as much as $10.5 billion or as little as $1.1 billion, depending on factors such as whether the government concludes that BP acted negligently. Under the Clean Water Act, BP faces fines of up to $1,100 for each barrel of oil spilled. If BP were found to have committed gross negligence or willful misconduct, the fine could be up to $4,300 per barrel. That means that based on the government''s estimate of 206 million gallons, BP could face civil fines alone of between $5.4 billion and $21.1 billion.