BP Executives Trial Begins For Gulf Oil Spill

BP executives were taken to court on Monday as people, businesses, and governments harmed by the biggest oil spill in US history got their day in court.

The company’s executives were blamed for the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which killed 11 oil rig workers and spilled millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Assistant US Attorney Mike Underhill and lawyers for other plaintiffs slammed the company’s executives, reports Reuters. Underhill opened the trial by saying:

“The primary fault for this disaster lies with BP.”

The trial is being held to determine if BP executives should face legal culpability in relation to the four million barrels of oil that spilled into the Gulf over the summer of 2010.

The trial is being overseen by Judge Carl Barbier in a federal district court in New Orleans. BP’s lawyers are expected to speak later on Monday. They will need to show that the company’s mistakes relating to the spill don’t meet the legal definition of gross negligence required for the highest amount of damages.

Yahoo! News notes that BP owned the blown-out Macondo well and was leasing the Deepwater Horizon rig when the spill began on April 20, 2010. The rig exploded, causing the well to spill millions of barrels of oil until it was finally capped on September 10, 2010. Underhill also asserted during opening statements:

“The evidence will show that BP put profits before people, profits before safety and profits before the environment.”

BP Executives Trial Oil Spill

Transocean Ltd, which owned the rig, was represented by Brad Brian in court on Monday. He also outlined the Swiss-based drilling company’s assertion that BP withheld information from them about the project, which was more than $50 million over budget and behind schedule.

Brian asserted that the Transocean workers’ worst decision was to trust the BP supervisors on the rig. He added:

“And they paid for that trust with their lives. They did not because they weren’t trained properly. They died because critical information was withheld from them.”

The trial’s defendants, BP and Haliburton (the cement contractor that constructed the barrier meant to prevent gas or oil from flowing up the well), will have their lawyers speak later on Monday to outline their cases.

Transocean has also been blamed in the incident. While the trial involving BP executives goes on, the full impact of the Gulf oil spill will likely not be known for years.

[Image by US Coast Guard [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]