NATION

More oil was spilled in Gulf of Mexico than BP estimated, judge rules

Nearly 134 million gallons were discharged into Gulf of Mexico from BP well, judge says, more than BP estimate

A federal judge determined Thursday that more oil than BP estimated spilled into the Gulf of Mexico after a rig explosion in 2010, a decision that could potentially cost the London-based oil giant more than $13 billion.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier ruled that 3.19 million barrels - just less than 134 million gallons - were discharged into the gulf after a rig explosion at BP's Macondo well.

The number is more than the 2.4 million barrel figure BP had argued for and less than the government's estimate of about 4.2 million, a figure that could have meant $18 billion in maximum penalties under the Clean Water Act.

Those penalties are to be determined in a trial set to open Tuesday. In pre-trial briefs, the government has argued that the oil giant should pay as much as $4,300 per barrel spilled.

The discharge figure Barbier settled on Thursday means maximum penalties could reach about $13.7 billion, but he has not yet decided how much per barrel BP must pay.

BP has argued that the penalties should be lower than what the government is asking for, but has not offered a specific figure.

Barbier's finding - a figure about midway between the government's and BP's estimates - came more than a year after a trial during which the judge found that BP acted with “gross negligence” in the 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon offshore rig. BP is appealing.

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