BP to Face Civil Penalties

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Now that a $4 billion plea deal has resolved BP's criminal liability for the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill nearly three years ago, the company will turn its focus to a trial that could potentially cost it billions of dollars more in civil penalties.

At the conclusion of a hearing Tuesday that included emotional testimony and a BP executive's apology, a federal judge agreed to let the London-based oil giant plead guilty to manslaughter charges for the April 2010 deaths of 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon rig and pay the record amount of criminal penalties.

What the plea deal approved by U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance doesn't resolve, though, is the federal government's civil claims against BP.

A trial scheduled to start Feb. 25 is designed to identify the causes of BP's well blowout, which triggered the deadly rig explosion and massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010. The first phase of the trial also is designed to assign percentages of blame to BP and its partners in the ill-fated drilling project.

BP and the Justice Department have engaged in settlement talks that could resolve the civil claims against BP by the federal government and Gulf states before trial.

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