NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The 2010 BP oil spill's long-term neffects on Gulf of Mexico sea life and coastal marshes remain uncertain,n an environmental expert testified Wednesday as federal attorneys laid nout their case for penalties against the oil corporation that could hit n$13.7 billion.
Donald Boesch, a professor at the University of nMaryland, testified for the Justice Department, which is pressing for nhigh penalties against the oil giant. Aside from the obvious harm — namong his examples were oiled wildlife, fouled coastal marshes and ndamage to mangroves — Boesch recounted potential harm to sea life npopulations based on the effect of oil on microbes at the bottom of the nnatural food chain.
Boesch was the latest in a parade of experts nthe Justice Department has called to bolster its case that nenvironmental, economic and social harm done to the much of the Gulf nCoast after the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion at BP's Macondo well on nApril 20, 2010, warrants a stiff Clean Water Act civil penalty. The nexplosion killed 11 workers and spewed oil into the Gulf for 87 days.
BPn estimates it has already piled up $42 billion in costs related to the nspill and is pushing for an unspecified lighter penalty. In addition to npushing for the hefty BP penalty, the government has suggested a $1 nbillion-plus penalty for Anadarko, a minority partner in the Macondo nwell. Anadarko is fighting that penalty, noting that it was a nnon-operational partner in the well.
BP, which is expected to nbegin presenting its case as early as Friday, maintains that the ngovernment is ignoring some of its own data indicating strong recovery nof the Gulf environment and economy. In briefs and in cross examination,n BP attorneys attacked the idea of "potential harm" cited by the ngovernment experts as speculation that should not be used in consideringn the penalty.
BP attorney Mike Brock questioned Boesch's analyses at length in cross-examination.
"You've done no independent analysis of any population change for any fish species, correct?"
"In have not done that," Boesch replied, but he consistently defended his nconclusions of potential harm based on his review of a host of reports nand data.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier is presiding over the ntrial, which began Tuesday and is expected to last three weeks. nPost-trial briefing deadlines indicate Barbier won't rule before April.