The U.S. Supreme Court rejected appeals from BP Plc and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and left intact a ruling that opens the companies to potentially billions of dollars in fines for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
In declining to hear the appeal, the high court let stand a ruling by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans that BP and Anadarko were automatically liable as co-owners of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Supreme Court intervention might have delayed Barbier’s pending ruling on a U.S. request for as much as $13.7 billion in civil fines from BP and more than $1 billion from Anadarko. His decision may come at any time.
“We’re pleased with the decision,” Wyn Hornbuckle, a Justice Department spokesman, said in an e-mail.
Geoff Morrell, a BP spokesman, and John Christiansen, Anadarko’s spokesman, declined to comment on Monday’s ruling.
A federal appeals court last year upheld Barbier’s conclusion about BP’s and Anadarko’s liability under the Clean Water Act. The offshore explosion released millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf, the largest spill in U.S. history.
BP had argued it wasn’t liable because the spilled oil entered Gulf waters through equipment owned by its drilling contractor, a unit of Transocean Ltd. Barbier ruled that oil was discharged from the well, making the co-owners — BP and Anadarko — liable for the pollution fine.
Barbier ruled in September that BP was grossly negligent, subjecting the London-based oil company to larger penalties. That finding wasn’t before the Supreme Court.
That law allows the government to seek fines of as much as $1,100 per barrel spilled on a finding of strict liability and as much as $4,300 a barrel for gross negligence. His separate decision in January that 3.19 million barrels of oil were spilled into the Gulf left BP subject to a maximum fine of $13.7 billion.
The BP fine sought by the government would be a record under the Clean Water Act.
The cases are Anadarko Petroleum v. U.S., 14-1167, and BP Exploration v. U.S., 14-1217.