A Louisiana federal court has found that the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was the result of "gross negligence" on the part of BP, a decision that will potentially have the company paying billions of dollars more in fines. Under the Clean Water Act, a company can be charged up to $1,100 per barrel of oil spilled in the absence of gross negligence. But with gross negligence, as has been found here, that fine can potentially quadruple. The court didn't decide damages in today's ruling, but Bloomberg estimates that they could be as high as $18 billion.
BP first pled guilty to criminal charges over the spill, which is among the largest in US history, back in 2014, then agreeing $4.5 billion in fines. That didn't cover charges over the Clean Water Act, however, which is where BP may see the most significant damages. The case isn't over yet, either. This is only its first phase, focusing on loss of control over the well, the following fire and explosion, the sinking of the oil rig, and how oil started to be discharged. A second phase of the trial will focus on efforts to stop the spill and how much oil entered the water.