The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

February 27, 2013

Oil spill trial: BP executive to resume testimony



NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The first BP executive to testify at a federal trial over the nation's worst oil spill was to take the stand for a second day Wednesday before a judge tasked with deciding whether the London-based oil giant and other companies acted with gross negligence for the 2010 disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

BP executive Lamar McKay testified Tuesday, the second day of the non-jury trial in New Orleans, that BP and its contractors share responsibility for preventing blowouts like the Macondo well blowout and rig explosion off Louisiana that killed 11 workers on April 20, 2010, spawning the massive spill.

Rig owner Transocean Ltd. and cement contractor Halliburton also are defendants at the trial, which opened Monday before U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier. Barring a settlement, the federal trial is intended to identify the cause of the well blowout and decide how much more money BP and the others might have to pay, assigning percentages of blame.

Under the Clean Water Act, a polluter can be forced to pay a minimum of $1,100 per barrel of spilled oil; the fines nearly quadruple to about $4,300 a barrel for companies found grossly negligent, meaning BP could be on the hook for nearly $18 billion.

BP and Transocean attorneys on Wednesday are expected to question McKay, who served as president of BP America at the time of the blowout and now serves as chief executive of the company's Upstream unit.

The third day of the trial also was expected to include video excerpts of deposition testimony by former BP chief Tony Hayward. Excerpts of Hayward's testimony that became public in 2011 show he tried to refute accusations that he sought to prop up BP's falling share price through his subordinates' daily media briefings on the spill.

On Tuesday, a lawyer for businesses and people suing over the disaster pressed McKay to agree with him that BP bore ultimate responsibility for the blowout. But McKay insisted that managing the hazards of deepwater drilling constituted a "team effort."

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