Five years after the Gulf of Mexico disaster, oil company faces a fine of up to $13.7bn as Judge Carl Barbier begins assessment. This Tuesday, close to five years after an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig claimed 11 lives and poured millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, a judge in New Orleans will begin his final reckoning for one of the worst environmental disasters in US history.
Judge Carl Barbier has presided over the complex case brought by the US government against the well’s operators and this week will start assessing the final fine BP, the oil company held most responsible for the disaster, will pay.
The aftermath of the disaster has been an ugly affair. The environmental devastation is still being assessed. Scammers have targeted BP, leading the company to set up a “snitch line” for people to inform on those making potentially bogus claims. Barbier has criticised BP for going back on the terms of previous agreements to compensate victims of the spill. The company has taken out ads characterising itself as a victim of a “trial lawyer bonanza”.
Barbier is probably the only actor in the Deepwater disaster to have emerged with his reputation enhanced. Ed Sherman, a law professor at New Orleans’ Tulane University and expert in complex litigation, said the case was probably “the most complex of modern times”, involving multiples parties and maritime law, common law and statutory law. “He’s done a remarkable job,” said Sherman.