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BP trial: Transocean comes under fire over poor maintenance record

A maintenance director for Transocean, the company that owned the Deepwater Horizon rig and leased it to BP for exploratory drilling, testified in court Tuesday that the rig was “not flawless” at the time it exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, but that “overall it was in really good shape.” The testimony was entered in response to assertions made by a plaintiffs’ expert that the Deepwater Horizon was riddled with maintenance issues that rendered it “not seaworthy” and that the Transocean staff running it was “incompetent.” Billy Ambrose, Transocean’s Director of Maintenance and Technical Support ... Read More

Halliburton faces court sanctions for withholding well cement samples

BP contractor Halliburton will likely face sanctions for its refusal to turn over samples of the cement it used to seal the doomed Macondo well, which erupted in a series of deadly explosions on April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers and setting off the largest oil spill in U.S. history. According to the Associated Press, a lawyer with Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange’s office said the state would either wait for BP to file a motion calling for sanctions against Halliburton and support it or it would file its own motion. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who is presiding over ... Read More

BP’s safety record scrutinized on third day of oil spill trial

Litigation in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill trial focused on safety matters Wednesday, as plaintiffs’ lawyers worked to portray BP as a company concerned more about saving money and boosting profits than ensuring worker safety and protecting the environment from harm. The highly complex trial began Monday with Judge Carl Barbier, who has been immersed in the oil spill litigation for nearly three years, hearing arguments from both sides. No jury is present in the trial, given the technical nature of the case and the projected three-month timeline for the first phase alone, which is designed to apportion blame for ... Read More

BP’s oil spill liability trial starts amid reports of $16-billion settlement

The trial to determine how much in civil fines BP should pay under the Clean Water Act for polluting the Gulf of Mexico with its 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill started in federal court Monday, as lawyers for the company, the federal government, and four Gulf states continued with their efforts to reach an agreement out of court. According to the New York Times, lawyers briefed on the settlement talks said that a $16 billion payout to settle the claims has been proposed, with one big caveat: BP wants to pay mostly penalties instead of fines, a technicality that would ... Read More

Serious safety violations found aboard Shell Arctic oil rig

Numerous safety violations found aboard one of the Shell Corporation’s Arctic drilling rigs has raised some more red flags about oil drilling in the icy, remote northern seas where cleaning up an oil spill like the one that plagued the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 would be almost impossible. Responding to a request from Democratic staff on the House Natural Resources Committee, the U.S. Coast Guard inspected Shell’s Noble Discoverer drilling rig, a 514-foot-long log carrier that was built in 1966 and converted into a drilling rig 10 years later. What inspectors found did nothing to reassure regulators about Shell’s ... Read More

Gulf’s recovery from BP spill will require maximum fines plus $25 billion, environmental groups say

Using cleanup cost assessments from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, U.S. environmental groups say that BP needs to pay $25 billion on top of the record $17.6 billion in civil fines it may have to pay in order to restore the coast and marine habitats harmed by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. BP heads to trial in New Orleans Monday to face civil fines for violating the Clean Water Act with its massive spill, which erupted from the Macondo well about 50 miles from the Louisiana shore and a mile beneath the surface. But according to ... Read More

Judge slashes BP’s oil spill liability by 810,000 barrels

A federal judge agreed Tuesday to let BP off the hook for 810,000 barrels of the 4.9 million barrels (206 million gallons) of oil released by its blown-out Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, accepting the argument that the company collected that much oil from the source before it contaminated the water. Judge Carl Barbier’s order represents a substantial victory for BP because it reduces the maximum penalty the company would pay for violating the Clean Water Act by $3.4 billion. A federal trial is set to begin Monday in New Orleans to determine how much blame should be ... Read More

No agreement in sight makes BP oil spill trial seem inevitable

With no agreement in sight, BP officials acknowledged Tuesday that it appears the company is headed court to defend itself against civil claims related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Of primary concern to BP is the federal government’s charge that the company acted with “gross negligence” in causing the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. BP says it is prepared to defend itself vigorously against those allegations, which the company’s counsel considers to be overly harsh. “Gross negligence is a very high bar that BP believes cannot be met in this case,” general counsel Rupert Bondy said. “This ... Read More

Judge approves Transocean’s plea deal settling criminal oil spill charge

U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo in Houston has approved an agreement between Transocean Ltd. and the U.S. Justice Department to settle a criminal charge for its role in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Swiss company, which leased the Deepwater Horizon rig to BP for exploratory drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, agreed to pay a $400 million penalty to settle a misdemeanor charge for violating the Clean Water Act. Judge Milazzo said that nobody voiced opposition to the proposed settlement, which both parties agreed to last month, nor did she receive any letters objecting to it. When ... Read More

Undercover video shows rig demolition’s toll on Gulf marine life

From agricultural runoff and industrial waste deposits to giant oil spills, the Gulf of Mexico isn’t always treated with the environmentally sound stewardship that a resource of such huge economic and environmental importance deserves. And now, thanks to an undercover video obtained by Mobile’s Local 15, another aspect of this sad mistreatment has gone public. The video shows the cost of demolishing one rusty old, abandoned oil rig in the Gulf not in terms of dollars but in the toll it takes on marine life. After the rig is blown up, thousands of pounds of dead red snapper float to the surface. ... Read More