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article imageStart of BP’s Gulf oil spill trial delayed by federal judge

By Lynn Herrmann     Feb 28, 2012 in Politics
New Orleans - After failing to reach a settlement by the scheduled court date, on the books since the autumn of 2010, a federal judge has given BP and a plaintiff steering committee representing scores of private parties another week to settle their differences.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, appointed to the federal bench by former president Bill Clinton, did not elaborate in his decision to extend the court date by a week, noting, “For reasons of judicial efficiency and to allow the parties to make further progress in their settlement discussions, the Court, on its own motion, issues the following Order: It is ordered that Phase I of the trial scheduled to commence February 27, 2012, is adjourned until Monday, March 5, 2012 at 8:00 am.,” the New Orleans Times Picayune reports.
The trial had been scheduled to begin Monday morning in New Orleans, but negotiations have failed to bring the parties together. In a joint statement by the plaintiffs steering committee and BP, the two parties said, “This adjournment is intended to allow BP and the PSC more time to continue settlement discussions and attempt to reach an agreement.  BP and the PSC are working to reach agreement to fairly compensate people and businesses affected by the Deepwater Horizon accident and oil spill. There can be no assurance that these discussions will lead to a settlement agreement. A further announcement will be made as appropriate.”
Earlier in February, BP had been accused of “hide and stall” tactics in efforts to reach a settlement. The oil giant - responsible for the Deepwater Horizon debacle in the Gulf of Mexico last year which claimed the lives of 11 workers, spilled millions of barrels of oil into the ocean’s water column and tainted hundred of miles of Gulf coastline - has been attempting to have potentially damaging evidence regarding a refinery explosion at its Texas City operation sealed or struck from the trial.
Additionally, BP is also seeking to have excluded from trial documents on employee compensation connected to cost-cutting practices, as well as the testimony of Tony Hayward, former chief executive of the company, who was let go after repeatedly presenting an air of indifference over the Deepwater debacle.
The PSC represents private parties in involved in the lawsuit, including the seafood industry, coastal property owners and condominium owners. Although federal, state and local governments have their own separate claims, they could be part of any settlement reached between BP and the PSC.
Issues among the broken-down negotiations include environmental damage repair costs, federal and state government expenses related to the spill response, and the cost related to economic losses, fines and penalties.
Although BP Chief Executive Robert Dudley told the The Telegraph Sunday he was looking for “some deals,” he added the oil behemoth was prepared for a lengthy, legal battle lasting into 2014.
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