BP on Friday filed a motion seeking to establish that the number of barrels of oil to be used for purposes of calculating Clean Water Act (CWA) civil penalties related to the Deepwater Horizon incident is substantially lower than the U.S. government's public estimates.
The company is seeking to establish this fact in the second phase of the limitation and liability trial in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, which is set to begin in September of this year.
"The oil that BP successfully captured from the Macondo reservoir without it entering the Gulf of Mexico waters should not be considered in the court's future determination of Clean Water Act civil penalties," said BP spokesperson Scott Dean in an email statement to Rigzone.
Under the Clean Water Act, civil penalties are assessed only on oil that has actually entered the environment and caused harm. "The government has already acknowledged that over 810,000 barrels of oil were recovered directly from the wellhead. BP therefore seeks to narrow the issues in dispute by showing that whatever the final number of barrels released from the reservoir is proven to be, BP should not be liable for civil penalties for at least 810,000 barrels of captured oil," Dean commented.
BP said in the filing that it does not dispute that a larger amount of oil was discharged into the Gulf of Mexico. The company also said it was aware that the Flow Rate Technical Group (FRTG) on Aug. 2, 2010, issued a 4.9 million barrel estimate of the total amount of oil that had escaped the reservoir, considering both oil that was collected and oil that entered the Gulf.
"To be sure, BP continues to believe that the FRTG's 4.9-million barrel estimate significantly overstates the size of the spill. But the important point is that this disagreement over the size of the spill is a matter for resolution in the Phase 2 trial," BP said in the filing.
BP commented that treating the collected oil no differently from oil that had entered the water would undoubtedly discourage parties potentially liable for penalties arising from future spills from expending resources to collect oil that might otherwise be spilled.
"Surely, neither BP in this spill nor a future defendant in some future spill should be penalized for not only trying to do the right thing, but successfully doing the right thing and keeping oil out of the marine environment," BP commented in the filing.
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