America sues BP over Gulf oil spill

16 Dec 2010
BP claims to have so far spent close to $40 billion (€30.2 billion) on the clean-up and other costs since the disaster.

BP claims to have so far spent close to $40 billion (€30.2 billion) on the clean-up and other costs since the disaster.

The US government has filed a civil suit against BP and several of its partners for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in April.

The action, filed this week in a New Orleans court, accuses BP and eight other companies of violating safety regulations, and is seeking unlimited damages to cover the costs of cleaning up the oil, the losses suffered by fishermen and local businesses, and the damage done to the environment.

Aside from BP, the suit names Transocean, which owned the rig, Anadarko Petroleum and MOEX offshore, which were minority partners in the well, and Lloyd's of London.

The suit says the full extent of damages caused by the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf remain unknown, but the costs far exceed the $75 million (€56.7 million) cap on existing oil spill legislation.

The suit also seeks fines and penalties under the Clean Water Act for the months when oil was spewing into the Gulf, potentially exposing the oil companies to billions in additional costs.

BP has paid $20 billion (€15.1 million) into an account to compensate Gulf businesses for lost livelihoods because of the oil disaster. But sources say it could also face fines of up to $4,300 (€3,248) for each barrel of oil released into the Gulf if the courts find the company negligent.

The explosion on the Deepwater Horizon on 20 April killed 11 men. Some government scientists estimate that close to 5 million barrels of oil were released before the well was sealed in September.

The 27-page complaint accuses BP and the other companies of failing to use the safest available techniques to drill the well and provide continuous monitoring of its conditions, and of failing to protect employees on the rig and the natural resources of the Gulf.

A commission appointed by US president Barack Obama this month accused all the firms involved of bad management and communications breakdown.

The suit had been long expected. In an initial reaction, BP said the complaint at this stage represented what were only the government's allegations. Transocean, meanwhile, denied responsibility for the explosion, saying that BP as the well owner had sole liability under the law.

BP claims to have so far spent close to $40 billion (€30.2 billion) on the clean-up and other costs since the disaster.

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