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Judge Denies BP's Attempt To Avoid Up To $18 Billion In Fines

After a federal judge ruled that BP's "gross negligence" and "willful misconduct" were to blame for 2010's huge Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the company was exposed to billions in federal fines. The company asked the judge last month to reconsider. And on Thursday, he said no.

The ruling against BP could trigger up to $18 billion in fines under the Clean Water Act — far more than the $3.5 billion the oil company has reportedly set aside for that purpose.

NPR's Jeff Brady reports:

"In September, New Orleans federal Judge Carl Barbier ruled BP's conduct leading to the Deepwater Horizon accident amounted to gross negligence. The company asked him to amend the judgment or hold a new trial. But Barbier says he won't do that. BP says it will appeal.

"BP argued key testimony that Barbier based his decision on was excluded. But Barbier says BP's own lawyers later opened the door to that testimony by bringing it up again."

Barbier's decision was issued in September — after the judge caught BP's lawyers using an old school trick: futzing with a document's spacing so it would conform to the court's page limit.

"The Court should not have to waste its time policing such simple rules," Barbier wrote ( and Jeff Brady quoted for NPR), "particularly in a case as massive and complex as this. ... Counsel's tactic would not be appropriate for a college term paper. It certainly is not appropriate here."

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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