On Wednesday, June 4, a federal appeals court released a ruling that would not allow the owners of the Macondo well to avoid federal fines following the tragic Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010, as well as the subsequent oil spill. The oil came from a well that was owned by both BP and Anadarko Petroleum Corp, both of whom the court believes should be held liable for the damage caused by both the explosion and the spill.
Last year, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, Transocean Ltd., pled guilty to a violation of the Clean Water Act and agreed to pay a fine of $1 billion. According to the Macondo well owners, most of the blame should be shifted to the rig owners as they asserted the explosion was caused by the failure of the rig's blowout preventer; they also claimed that while the oil initially came from their very own well, it was actually released into the ocean while it was traveling up the pipe into the rig and not directly from the well itself.
As Judge Fortunato P. Benavides wrote, "Although the defendants argue that the blowout preventer should have engaged and prevented the progression of the blowout, the need for this intervention only underscores the extent to which the oil was already unconfined and flowing freely." The federal appeals court therefore denied the companies' request to have blame shifted to the owner of the rig as they said the law does not allow defendants to shift liability by blaming others; however, the amount of damages may be adjusted.
This is the second defeat that BP has suffered at the hands of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this year. Less than two weeks ago, they were denied their request to put a freeze on the oil spill payouts to keep companies from filing false claims without being able to prove their damage was caused by the BP oil spill. Their request was denied in an 8-5 vote and the company is currently seeking relief from the Supreme Court.