The long-awaited trial for the worst oil spill in U.S. history began Monday, with U.S. federal prosecutors, businesses and individuals mostly blaming BP for the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
At the federal court in New Orleans, U.S. Justice Department attorney Mike Underhill said the disaster was a result of BP's "culture of corporate recklessness."
"The evidence will show that BP put profits before people, profits before safety and profits before the environment," Underhill said during opening statements.
The primary fault for the Gulf oil spill, which also led to the death of 11 workers, belongs to BP, said Underhill.
Attorney Jim Roy, who represents businesses and individuals hurt by the spill, said BP executives applied "huge financial pressure" on its drilling managers to cut costs and rush the job. "BP repeatedly choose speed over safety," said Roy.
Meanwhile, Roy said, the spill also resulted from Transocean's woeful safety culture. He said Halliburton also deserved some of the blame for providing BP with a product that was "poorly designed, not properly tested and was unstable."
Lawyers for two other co-defendants in the case, Transocean and Hilliburton, blamed BP for the disaster. But BP lawyer Mike Brock said the blame should be shared by all three companies.
The 2010 blowout of BP's Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico triggered an explosion that killed 11 rig workers and unleashed the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
BP had agreed to pay 4.5 billion U.S. dollars in fines and other payments to the U.S. government and plead guilty to misconduct and negligence charges in connection with the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
BP still faces the prospect of having to pay billions more in civil penalties over the amount of oil that spilled.
The U.S. federal judge will determine if BP was guilty of gross negligence.
Under the country's Clean Water Act, a polluter pays a minimum of 1,100 U.S. dollars per barrel of spilled oil. The fines nearly quadruple to about 4,300 dollars per barrels for companies found guilty of grossly negligence.
If federal and state officials are successful in proving gross negligence against BP in its handling of the spill, the fines against the London-based oil giant will be four times as high as under a lower standard of liability.