British Petroleum, former record-holder for “most inept at U.S. offshore drilling,” has a favor to ask of the government. Yeah, sure, the government says that 4.9 million barrels of oil were spilled when the Deepwater Horizon went blooey, but if we could agree it was actually more like, oh, 4.1 million, that would save BP a few bucks.
The U.S. government has asserted that the well discharged 4.9 million barrels of oil, or 206 million gallons. BP stated again in its filing Friday that it believes the spill was significantly smaller, though it hasn’t publicly provided its own estimate.
With a finding of gross negligence, the 4.9-million-barrel figure would carry a maximum Clean Water Act fine of more than $21 billion.
How big a dent would this obviously scientifically accurate adjustment make?
Such a ruling could reduce BP’s fine by as much as $3.4 billion if the court were to rule that BP acted with gross negligence when its Macondo well blew out 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana, leading to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
Data for 2012 hasn’t yet been released, but in 2011, BP only managed to pull in about $24 billion in profit. So you can see that having to pay for all of the damage that the company actually did would be a major imposition. That’s an extra $3.4 billion the company could be putting toward drilling more holes in the ocean floor, after all, and we certainly wouldn’t want it to stop doing that.