Oil Spill News Update in Gulf of Mexico

SPECIAL REPORT-Civil fine in Gulf spill could be $4,300 a barrel
* Clean Water Act allows per-barrel fines for oil spillers
By Joshua Schneyer

NEW YORK, May 25 (Reuters) – Just how many barrels of oil are gushing into the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon spill is a billion dollar question with implications that go beyond the environment. It could also help determine how much BP (BP.L) and others end up paying for the disaster.

A clause buried deep in the U.S. Clean Water Act may expose BP and others to civil fines that aren’t limited to any finite cap — unlike a $75 million limit on compensation for economic damages. The Act allows the government to seek civil penalties in court for every drop of oil that spills into U.S. navigable waters, including the area of BP’s leaking well.

As a result, the U.S. government could seek to fine BP or others up to $4,300 for every barrel leaked into the U.S. Gulf, according to legal experts and official documents.

So far, analysts and experts calculating potential oil spill liabilities have mostly concentrated on the cost of the clean-up and compensation for economic damages to affected parties. Some have also discussed criminal liabilities.
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