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Oil Spill Testimony Begins Flowing

Lamar McKay, former president of BP America and current chief executive of BP’s Upstream unit, left, leaves federal court after testifying in New Orleans, Feb. 26.

Lamar McKay, former president of BP America and current chief executive of BP’s Upstream unit, left, leaves federal court after testifying in New Orleans, Feb. 26.

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

The economic future of British oil giant BP hung in the balance during opening testimony in a long-anticipated federal court action over BP’s financial responsibility for damages to the environment and those who make their living from the Gulf of Mexico and its shores.

In opening statements, U.S. Department of Justice lawyers charged that BP “put profits over safety” at the Gulf of Mexico site — noting that 11 people were killed on the rig in the events that led to a massive oil spill in the Gulf.

Major players in the project — BP, Halliburton and Transocean — have blamed one another or, occasionally, someone else within the firm. NBC News reported on early stages of the trial, quoting BP’s lawyer Mike Brock: “There were a number of mistakes and errors in judgment that were made by BP, Transocean and Halliburton.”

And just a few days later, Halliburton executive Timothy Probert, testified that there were “irregularities” in information about cement work by his firm, but that he wasn’t personally involved in any of it, lawyers.com reported.

Halliburton has been accused by BP of destroying evidence. “More egregious still, Halliburton intentionally destroyed the evidence related to its non-privileged cement testing, in part because it wanted to eliminate any risk that this evidence would be used against it at trial,” the lawyers.com story quotes from court records.

If the court finds BP guilty of “gross negligence,” it could face fines up to $18 billion.

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