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U.S. court rejects BP appeal over Gulf spill losses

Source: Reuters 3/4/2014, Location: North America

A divided U.S. appeals court has rejected BP Plc's bid to block businesses from recovering money over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, even if they could not trace their economic losses to the disaster.

By a 2-1 vote, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans late Monday upheld a Dec. 24 ruling by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans, authorizing the payments on so-called business economic loss claims. It also said an injunction preventing payments should be lifted.

The decision is a setback for BP's effort to limit payments under a multi-billion dollar settlement over the April 20, 2010, explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and rupture of BP's Macondo oil well.

That disaster killed 11 people and triggered the largest U.S. offshore oil spill.

Geoff Morrell, a BP spokesman, said the company may appeal. BP had previously asked the full 5th Circuit to review a Jan. 10 decision by another three-judge panel that upheld the settlement itself.

BP previously settled U.S. criminal proceedings over the spill, and has completed two phases of a three-part civil trial before Barbier, where it could face more than $17 billion of penalties.

The company has set aside $42.7 billion for cleanup, compensation, legal and other costs related to the spill, . It has estimated that business economic loss claims in the latest appeal totaled about $1 billion.

"Each $1 billion extra on claims equates to just 2 pence per share for BP," Investec analysts said in a note.

BP shares traded down 0.3 percent at 491.6 pence in late afternoon trading in London.

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