Judge: Gulf oil spill was BP’s fault

Court decision could lead to billions in penalties for oil company

In this April 21, 2010 file photo taken in the Gulf of Mexico more than 50 miles southeast of Venice on Louisiana's tip, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig is seen burning. A BP scientist identified a previously unreported deposit of flammable gas that could have played a role in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but the oil giant failed to divulge the finding to government investigators for as long as a year, according to interviews and documents obtained by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)
In this April 21, 2010 file photo taken in the Gulf of Mexico more than 50 miles southeast of Venice on Louisiana's tip, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig is seen burning. A BP scientist identified a previously unreported deposit of flammable gas that could have played a role in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but the oil giant failed to divulge the finding to government investigators for as long as a year, according to interviews and documents obtained by The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that BP’s reckless conduct resulted in the worst US offshore oil spill, leaving the company open to billions of dollars in penalties.

US District Judge Carl Barbier’s ruling Thursday could nearly quadruple the amount of civil penalties for polluting the Gulf of Mexico with oil from BP’s Macondo well in 2010.

Barbier presided over a trial in 2013 to apportion blame for the spill that spewed oil from April 20 to mid-July 2010. Eleven men died when the well blew wild; BP already has agreed to billions of dollars in criminal fines.

Barbier says BP bears 67 percent of the blame for the spill. He says drilling rig owner Transocean Ltd. takes 30 percent of the blame, and cement contractor Halliburton Energy Service takes 3 percent.

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