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BP Acted With Gross Negligence In Gulf Oil Spill, Federal Judge Rules

In a long-awaited ruling, a federal judge on Thursday said BP acted with gross negligence in relation to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and consequent oil spill.

The decision could cost the British oil giant billions of dollars. Bloomberg reports:

"U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier held a trial without a jury over who was at fault for the environmental catastrophe, which killed 11 people and spewed oil for almost three months into waters that touch the shores of five states. The case also included Transocean Ltd. (RIG), Halliburton Co. (HAL), though the judge didn't find them as responsible for the spill as BP.

" 'BP's conduct was reckless,' Barbier wrote in a decision today in New Orleans federal court. 'Transocean's conduct was negligent. Halliburton's conduct was negligent.'

"Barbier apportioned fault at 67 percent for BP, 30 percent for Transocean and 3 percent for Halliburton."

The Houston Chronicle explains that this finding of gross negligence could open the door to a maximum fine of $18 billion under the Clean Water Act.

On Wednesday, Halliburton, the company BP hired to cement the oil well in the Gulf of Mexico,agreed to settle a lawsuit with thousands of businesses in the Gulf region for $1.1 billion.

The New York Times reports that the fines will be set next year.

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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