New mass of tar on Louisiana coast linked to 2010 BP oil spill



Published time: October 17, 2013 22:50

Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon, off Louisiana, in this April 21, 2010 file handout image. (Reuters/U.S. Coast Guard/Files)

Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon, off Louisiana, in this April 21, 2010 file handout image. (Reuters/U.S. Coast Guard/Files)

The US Coast Guard has discovered a 4,100-pound tar mat under the sand around Louisiana’s southernmost port. It is believed to be left over from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The tar mat was uncovered while the Gulf Coast Incident
Management team combed the coast following Tropical Storm Karen,
which developed in southern portions of the Gulf of Mexico in
early October. 

According to a team spokesman, the mass on Fourchon Beach is 80
to 90 percent sand, shell, and water and 10 to 20 percent oil.

Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Anderson said the exact size of
the tar mat has not been determined, though he does not expect it
to be as large as one found near the Isle of Grand Terre in June,
which weighed in at 40,000 pounds.

Following the discovery at Grand Terre, BP estimated in June that over 2.7 million pounds of
tar from the spill had been collected in 2013 at that
point. 

Cleanup efforts have begun at Fourchon, as tar balls have been
collected on other parts of the state’s coast following the
relatively weak Tropical Storm Karen.

The discovery of more tar on the coast comes as the second phase
of the civil trial against BP continues in New Orleans. The trial
is assessing the oil company’s level of negligence following the
Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in April 2010. 

This phase of the trial aims to determine whether actions taken
by BP following the explosion and collapse of rig – which killed
11 workers and eventually became one of the worst environmental
disasters in US history – were sufficient, and to discover just
how much oil bled from the Macondo well out into the Gulf.

Various engineers and oil flow experts were called as witnesses
by BP early this week. They have been grilled by government
attorneys about various methods used and assessments made to
determine the leak’s severity.

Findings in the trial will inform US District Judge Carl
Barbier’s determinations on how much BP will be fined in relation
to the Clean Water Act and other federal laws appropriate to the
spill’s damage.

Should Barbier find BP and its contractors simply
“negligent” in the spill aftermath, the Clean Water Act
allows for up to $1,100 for each barrel of oil leaked into the
ocean. Should he determine “gross negligence” or “willful
misconduct,” BP could face maximum fines of $4,300 per barrel of
oil.

BP says that 2.45 million barrels of oil were released into the
Gulf – which would result in maximum fines of $2.7 billion for
negligence and $10.5 billion for gross negligence.

US Justice Department lawyers say that 4.2 million barrels leaked
out. Their estimates come out to fines of $4.6 billion for
negligence and $18 billion for gross negligence.

Barbier will consider all efforts taken to stem the flow of oil,
as well as the impact of any fines on the businesses involved.

In separate New Orleans US District Court proceedings, a former
Halliburton cementing technology director pleaded guilty Tuesday
to destroying evidence following the Deepwater Horizon explosion.
Halliburton was BP’s cement contractor on the rig.

Prosecutors say Anthony Badalamenti told two Halliburton
employees to erase data during a post-spill review of the
company’s cement job on the Macondo well.

He is the first individual charged with crimes associated with
the spill and its aftermath to plead guilty.

BP well site managers face manslaughter charges for the deaths of
workers on the rig. Prosecutors say they are responsible for a
botched safety test and negligence on other safety hazards. That
trial is set for 2014.

Meanwhile, former BP executive David Rainey is charged with
withholding information from Congress on how much oil was spewing
from the site in 2010. A former BP engineer faces charges related
to destroyed evidence associated with the company’s spill
response.