If BP is found to be “grossly negligent,” a key determination that will be made during the trial, its fine under the Clean Water Act could be as much as $17.5 billion based on the 4.1 million barrels that spilled into the Gulf and a maximum fine of $4,300 per barrel. But if BP is not found to be ”no more than negligent,” a $1,100-per-barrel fine will be used to calculate the company’s penalties. The company also faces damage claims of $34 billion made by Gulf Coast states.
To prove gross negligence, sources told Reuters that the prosecution must be able to present strong evidence of reckless and willful disregard for employee safety and the environment, a case that could be hard to make. According to the publication, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, who will represent the states in the trial, plans to show that the spill was “both predictable and preventable,” and that the company fostered a “culture of callousness.”
For their part, the companies involved have consistently argued that their mistakes do not amount to gross negligence.