Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

High-Stakes Trial Begins for 2010 Gulf Oil Spill

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

High-Stakes Trial Begins for 2010 Gulf Oil Spill

Article excerpt

NEW ORLEANS --

A high-stakes trial started today to assign blame and help figure out exactly how much more BP and other companies should pay for the nation's worst offshore oil spill.

Attorney Jim Roy, who represents individuals and businesses hurt by the spill, said BP executives applied "huge financial pressure" on its drilling managers to "cut costs and rush the job" before the blowout of its Macondo well triggered an explosion that killed 11 workers and spawned the massive spill. The project was more than $50 million over budget and behind schedule at the time of the blowout, Mr. Roy said.

"BP repeatedly chose speed over safety," Mr. Roy said, quoting from a report by an expert who may testify later.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier said he would hear several hours of opening statements today and the first witness would take the stand Tuesday. Unless a settlement is reached, the judge, not a jury, ultimately will decide months from now how much more money BP PLC and its partners on the ill-fated drilling project owe for their roles in the 2010 environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mr. Roy said the spill also resulted from rig owner Transocean Ltd.'s "woeful" safety culture. He said the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig failed to properly train its crew, calling it a "chronic problem allowed by Transocean management to go uncorrected."

"The workforce was not always aware of the hazards they were exposed to," Mr. Roy said. "They don't know what they don't know."

Transocean and BP will make its case later today.

BP has said it already has racked up more than $24 billion in spill-related expenses and has estimated it will pay a total of $42 billion to fully resolve its liability for the disaster.

But the trial attorneys for the federal government, Gulf states and private plaintiffs hope to convince the judge that the company is liable for much more.

With billions of dollars on the line, the companies and their courtroom adversaries have spared no expense in preparing for a trial that could last several months. …

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