How Much of an Impact will an $18 Billion Judgment Have for BP?

By David Brown, Alain Stephens and Rhonda FanningSeptember 5, 2014 7:22 pm

A federal court in New Orleans found BP the primary culprit in the 2010 gulf oil disaster, ruling the company acted with “gross negligence” – a charge four times that of a simple negligence charge. So, how much will $18 billion ruling on the company?

Maybe not much, says Brad Olsen of Bloomberg news. He’s been following the Deepwater Horizon spill and its fallout since 2010. He tells Texas Standard’s David Brown that the company’s already spent $30 billion on cleanup-related costs and “the tab is very clearly going to go higher.” Currently, the energy giant has about $26 billion dollars on their balance sheet. Olsen says, as the fines currently stand, BP can afford it.

BP is already planning to appeal the verdict, stating that the spill’s environmental impact was much lower than courts originally cited. The government claims that nearly 4.1 million barrels of oil were spilled into the Gulf. BP says it’s closer to 2.2 million. A couple million gallons add up.

“The fine amount that applies to each barrel is what determines the fine,” says Olsen. “That makes the range of maximum penalty from $10 billion and $18 billion dollars – quite high.”

While the Federal courts have come to a consensus, there are others who have yet to see punitive or reparative fees.  “States have yet to settle. They are pushing for further fines and higher and greater amounts”. It’s not likely that states will see these damages paid anytime soon either. “It will be many years before this is likely resolved.”