The U.S. government has until Thursday to respond to oil giant
BP's accusation that it is withholding thousands of documents
that could prove the size of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in
2010 was smaller than originally reported. The size of the spill
will play a crucial role as the courts determine the scope of
BP's liability following the worst environmental disaster in U.S.
Last Thursday, embattled BP (
) accused the government of hiding critical data and reports that
show that the oil spill wasn't as serious as prosecutors claim
and requested the court to compel the government to release these
documents. On Friday, U.S. Magistrate Sally Shushan in New
Orleans gave U.S. prosecutors until Thursday to answer these
The government, one of many plaintiffs suing BP over the April
20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 workers,
says that 4.9 million barrels of oil were spilled in the
aftermath of the accident. BP contends that number is
Under the Clean Water Act, BP could pay anywhere from $1,100
per barrel to $4,300 per barrel if BP is found negligent in the
Gulf spill. The higher amount would more likely be awarded if the
government spill estimates are sustained.
BP already struck a $7.8 billion settlement with
thousands of land and business owners, and could pay billions
more if and when the case reenters court.
BP and prosecutors could still settle outside court. Both
parties are expected to meet in the next few days to iron out
disagreements regarding the disclosure of the documents, the AP
Wyn Hornbuckle, a spokesman for the Department of Justice,
declined to comment citing pending litigation.
Request for comment from BP were unreturned by publication
Shares of BP rose 34 cents, or nearly 1 percent, to close at
$45.34 on Monday.