BP plc, Halliburton Co. and Transocean Ltd. are appealing a series of notices issued by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) that found the companies violated federal offshore drilling regulations when the Macondo well blew out in April 2010.

BSEE in October cited BP for seven violations and issued four citations each to Transocean, owner of the Deepwater Horizon, and Halliburton, the drilling contractor (see Daily GPI, Oct. 14, 2011). BP was cited for two additional safety violations in December (see Daily GPI, Dec. 8, 2011).

The companies’ appeals are to be reviewed by the administrative judges with the Interior Board of Land Appeals. However, Interior noted that the appeals process may be postponed until multidistrict litigation is completed over the incident.

Under provisions in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Lands Act, the government may collect $45,000 a day per violation. The Macondo well leaked oil into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days before it was closed and sealed in July 2010.

In addition to the OCS Lands Act, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials may seek spill-related penalties under several laws, including the Clean Water Act, which allows it to impose up to $4,300 in fines for every barrel of oil spilled. At a maximum fine, those responsible could face a penalty of $21 billion for the 4.9 million barrels spilled as a result of the Macondo blowout, which destroyed the Deepwater Horizon rig and killed 11 people.

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