1. The explosion was not the result of BP’s negligence.
2. The company did all it could do to bring the spill under control.
3. The spill was not as great as some imagine, so any penalties levied against it would be lower than they might otherwise be.
Those issues are far from resolved, but after three years of hearings and testimony, we may be getting close to at least the beginning of the end.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier will soon hear testimony on just how much oil was actually spilled into the Gulf.
Justice Department attorneys will argue a higher figure. BP attorneys will argue a lower one. It will be BP experts against government experts.
The size of the spill is a small matter. If BP is found negligent and the government’s oil-flow experts convince the court they are right, BP will pay more than $8 billion more in penalties than it would if the company lawyers carry the day.
There has already been testimony that BP was reluctant to cooperate with the Flow Rate Inspection Group that the government sent in shortly after the blowout occurred. Since that time, the company has been accused of being uncooperative when the government tried to arrive at a figure.
BP’s cooperation may soon be unnecessary. Recently, the first independent, verified study of the leak’s volume was released. The estimate of flow it arrived at closely mirrors the figures that government attorneys will present to the judge.
Timothy Crone, the professor of marine geophysics at Columbia University who led the team of researchers, expressed surprise that BP was still arguing. “The majority of scientists who worked on the problem are in agreement,” Crone said. “I can understand why BP wants to make it a question again, but in my opinion it’s not.”
It is obvious why BP is challenging the findings — $8 billion is a lot of money.
Now it will be up to Judge Barbier to decide if this is the beginning of the end, or just the end of the beginning.