Gulf spill civil trial’s second phase delayed two weeks

A federal judge is giving the Justice Department and attorneys for BP and Anadarko an extra two weeks to prepare for the second phase of a civil trial over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans said in an order Friday that the second phase of the trial will begin Sept. 30 instead of Sept. 16.

The second phase of the trial will address the amount of oil that spilled following the April 20, 2010 disaster off Louisiana. Clean Water Act fines will be based in part on the total.

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The government says some 4.1 million barrels of oil spilled in the Gulf before the undersea well that blew out was capped. An expert hired by BP says 2.46 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf. Another BP expert whose findings were recently released determined that even less oil spilled.

It will be up to Barbier to decide. BP owned a majority stake in the well. Anadarko owned a minority stake.

The first phase of the trial, which ended in April, involved the issue of gross negligence. Barbier has not yet ruled on whether BP, rig owner Transocean or cement contractor Halliburton were grossly negligent. He dismissed gross negligence claims against blowout prevent maker Cameron and well fluid provider M-I Swaco.

A gross negligence finding would open the door to punitive damages against the companies and potentially higher Clean Water Act fines for BP.