NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- BP acted "recklessly" and bears most of the responsibility for the nation's worst offshore oil spill, a federal judge concluded Thursday, exposing the energy giant to roughly $18 billion in additional penalties.<br />
BP's market value plummeted by $7 billion after the ruling as its shares suffered their worst percentage decline in almost three years. By Thursday afternoon, company shares had fallen almost 6 percent to $45.05.<br />
BP PLC, which vowed to appeal, already agreed to pay billions in criminal fines and compensation to people and businesses affected by the disaster. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier's ruling that BP acted with "gross negligence" deals instead with civil responsibilities, and could nearly quadruple what the London-based company has to pay in fines for polluting the Gulf of Mexico.<br />
The judge held a non-jury trial last year to apportion blame for the Macondo well spill, which killed 11 men on the Deepwater Horizon rig and spewed oil for 87 days in 2010.<br />
He ruled that BP bears 67 percent of the blame, Swiss-based drilling rig owner Transocean Ltd. bears 30 percent, and Houston-based cement contractor Halliburton Energy Services is responsible for 3 percent.<br />
BP made "profit-driven decisions" during the drilling that led to the deadly blowout, the judge concluded in his 153-page ruling. "These instances of negligence, taken together, evince an extreme deviation from the standard of care and a conscious disregard of known risks," he wrote.<br />
BP said it would appeal. "An impartial view of the record does not support the erroneous conclusion reached by the District Court," its statement said.<br />
Justice Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle said "we're pleased with the court's finding that BP acted with gross negligence and willful misconduct."
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
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