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In re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig "Deepwater Horizon"

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20227
Nos. MDL 2179, (E.D. La., 11/30/2015) (Barbier, J.)

A district court held a petroleum company liable for $159.5 million in civil penalties under the CWA in connection with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. The court applied each of the CWA’s eight civil penalty factors in reaching its conclusion, with "seriousness" and "culpability" being the most significant. Here, the court decided that the company's lack of culpability weighs more heavily in favor of a low penalty than the seriousness of the incident weighs in favor of the maximum penalty. It ultimately assessed a penalty of $50 per barrel, or $159.5 million. This is less than what the government had requested; namely, a penalty that was “significantly greater than $1 billion but substantially less than $3.5 billion," the maximum allowed under the CWA.