AP News

BP shares dive amid tough talk on Gulf spill

NEW YORK (AP) — The threat of big fines over the 2010 Gulf oil spill depressed shares of BP PLC Wednesday.

Government lawyers have renewed their pledge to prove at trial that BP engaged in gross negligence or willful misconduct leading up to the deadly rig explosion that killed 11 workers and spawned the nation's worst offshore oil spill. BP PLC faces billions of dollars in fines if U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier ultimately sides with the government.

BP shares dropped $1.26, or 3 percent, to $40.37 in afternoon trading. They were around $60 in April 2010, right before the company's Macondo well ruptured in the Gulf of Mexico and spewed oil for nearly three months. The shares sank to a low of $27 that July and have failed to close above $50 since.

BP has set aside just over $38 billion to cover the costs of the spill. That estimate does not include potential legal settlements and major government fines stemming from the spill. If BP is found to be grossly negligent, it could face fines as high as $21.1 billion.

The government's court filing from last Friday had a combative tone. Experts see that as a sign BP and the Justice Department aren't close to a settlement that would resolve the federal government's claims against the oil giant before a trial scheduled for next year.

The lawyers accuse BP executives of trying to minimize their role in the disaster and shift blame to blue-collar rig workers and their partners on the drilling project, including rig owner Transocean Ltd.

Shares of Transocean dropped $1.55, or 3.2 percent, to $46.59. The shares are still up about 22 percent this year.

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