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Second phase of BP oil spill trial comes to an end

BP-logoNEW ORLEANS — Two weeks of courtroom debate over how much oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico after BP PLC’s 2010 rig disaster has concluded, marking the end of the second phase of a trial over the Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 workers.

Government experts estimate 176 million gallons spilled into the Gulf. BP attorneys have urged U.S. District Judge Barbier to set the figure at nearly 103 million gallons.

The amount would be used to calculate any Clean Water Act penalties that London-based BP PLC would have to pay.

Using government figures, a maximum penalty if the company is found grossly negligent could total $18 billion. The company’s figures would cut that maximum to around $10.5 billion.

U.S District Judge Carl Barbier did not say when he will rule, but a quick decision was not expected. Barbier said he expects on Monday to set a schedule for post-trial briefings. And a third phase of the trial is yet to be held.

For the trial’s first phase, which ended in April, Barbier heard eight weeks of testimony about the causes of the April 2010 well blowout.

Barbier divided the second phase into two parts: Four days of testimony about BP’s efforts to cap the well followed by two weeks of technical and conflicting testimony by experts on estimates of how much oil spilled.

Clean Water Act penalties are the subject for the trial’s third phase, which hasn’t been scheduled yet.

The blowout and explosion on the Deepwater Horizon at BP’s Macondo well happened on April 20, 2010. BP stopped the flow of oil after 86 days.

Oil fouled recreational Gulf beaches, barrier islands and delicate coastal wetlands. Fishing was shut down for months in some areas. The company has said it has paid more than $26 billion so far in spill-related expenses, including cleanup and claims

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