Oil giant BP is joining forces with the federal Justice Department to appeal a ruling that has decreased the extent of contracting company Transocean’s liability with regard to the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill of 2010.
Transocean Ltd. Is one of the largest offshore drilling contractos in the world, and was renting the Deepwater Horizon vessel to BP for its drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico at the time of tehe incident.
Both the Justice Department and BP disagree with the recent ruling in a federal court that Transocean can only be held partly liable for the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and have filed an appeal with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. It remains to be seen whether the appeal will be successful.
The defendants in the Deepwater Horizon case are mainly three large names in the oil and petroleum industry – BP, Transocean and Halliburton. Shortly after the accident occurred, BP received the most criticism and attention from the media, which even became known for some time as the “BP Oil Spill.” BP were conducting drilling operations on their Macondo Well in the Gulf of Mexico when the explosion occurred, and therefore the White House in their final report on the accident claimed that BP was largely responsible for the explosion. According to the results of federal investigations into the incident, BP had made a number of budget cuts which caused safety regulations to be violated, thereby leading to the disaster.
Transocean were the owners of the Deepwater Horizon vessel, and were also directly employing many of the crew members who were on board the vessel at the time of the explosion. Halliburton, the other company involved, was responsible for cementing the Macondo Well. The investigation reports into the accident all agree that defective cementing of the well played a major role in the explosion, making Halliburton also liable for the damages caused.
The judge that made the judgment reducing the level of Transocean’s liability relied on the Oil Pollution Act to make the call. According to this act, a contractor does not necessarily have to be held responsible for oil discharged below the water surface. The effects of his judgment are that Transocean will no longer be held responsible for billions of dollars of environmental damages.
As well as reducing the compensation that Transocean will have to pay, the judge also made a ruling that BP will have to pay Clean Water Act fines in addition to the compensation that they have already paid.