Feds Vow to Prove Gross Negligence by BP
he Justice Department is urging a federal judge to ignore BP’s assertion that the Gulf Coast’s natural resources are making a “robust recovery” from its massive 2010 oil spill.
In a court filing Friday, government lawyers also renewed their vow to prove at trial that BP engaged in gross negligence or willful misconduct leading up to the deadly rig explosion that killed 11 workers and spawned the nation’s worst offshore oil spill. BP PLC faces billions of dollars in fines if U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier ultimately sides with the government.
The memo’s combative language is a sign that BP and the Justice Department aren’t close to a settlement that would resolve the federal government’s claims against the oil giant before a trial scheduled for next year.
“It’s a shot across the bow,” said David Uhlmann, a University of Michigan law professor and former chief of the Justice Department’s environmental crimes section. “Generally speaking, when you see the government use such strong language, it’s intended to signal its readiness to go to trial.”
In the filing, government lawyers accuse BP executives of trying to minimize their role in the disaster and shift blame to blue-collar rig workers and their partners on the drilling project, including rig owner Transocean Ltd.
“The behavior, words, and actions of these BP executives would not be tolerated in a middling size company manufacturing dry goods for sale in a suburban mall,” they wrote. “Yet they were condoned in a corporation engaged in an activity that no less a witness than (former BP chief executive) Tony Hayward himself described as comparable to exploring outer space.”