Judge Carl Barbier has granted BP’s request to dismiss claims brought against the company by Gulf drillers who claimed the oil giant was liable for losses they sustained during a government-mandated moratorium on drilling following the Deepwater Horizon spill. The ruling found that under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) of 1990, a “responsible party” is not liable for economic loss that results from the government’s actions in the aftermath of a spill.
Judge Barbier wrote in his order that there is no doubt the government would not have imposed the six-month moratorium had the blowout and spill not occurred, but in his opinion that isn’t enough to prove BP’s liability. The judge wrote further:
In OPA terms, then – and putting aside the question of whether plaintiffs’ claims are due to the injury, destruction, or loss of property or natural resources – the OPA test case plaintiffs’ losses did not result from the discharge or substantial threat of discharge of oil from the Macondo Well; they resulted from the perceived threat (whether substantial or not) of discharge from other wells. On a similar note, while OPA’s legislative history makes clear that Congress intended the act to loosen or remove some of the restrictions on recovery that existed under maritime law, there is nothing to suggest that Congress intended OPA to go so far as to hold a discharger liable for the financial consequences of subsequent government actions aimed at preventing similar tragedies in the future and which broadly affect an entire industry.
The PSC is expected to appeal this decision.
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