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Monday, July 18, 2011

Lawsuit Against BP Tossed

- Lawsuit Against BP Tossed

Monday, July 18, 2011
Houston Chronicle
by Tom Fowler

A federal judge has dismissed racketeering claims brought by Gulf Coast businesses and residents against BP for last year's massive oil spill.

The plaintiffs alleged that BP defrauded regulators in connection with the safety of its drilling operations and its response to the spill. They invoked the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a law typically used against organized crime.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier dismissed the claims Friday. The decision does not affect other damage claims still pending from the same plaintiffs.

The judge also set aside a lawsuit filed against BP by Anadarko Petroleum Corp., one of its partners on the Macondo well. He ruled that the two companies' prior contractual agreements required them to try to settle such disputes through arbitration before suing.

Anadarko argued that BP had voided that requirement by, among other things, demanding that Anadarko produce evidence in the civil case.

"We respect today's decision, which does nothing to diminish our claims; it simply addresses the venue in which they may be resolved," Anadarko spokesman John Christiansen said in a statement.

Anadarko has not set aside funds explicitly for possible spill-related liabilities but has said during analyst meetings that it has up to $3.4 billion in cash on hand and a $5 billion credit line it acquired after the accident.

BP, which has set aside more than $40 billion in reserves, said in a prepared statement after the ruling that Anadarko shares liability under the federal Oil Pollution Act.

"Anadarko has blatantly disregarded its responsibilities to the residents of the Gulf Coast by failing to pay its fair share of the costs relating to the accident and resulting spill," it said. "BP remains focused on ensuring that Anadarko lives up to its obligations as a co-leasehold owner of the Macondo prospect and as a 'responsible party' under OPA."

Copyright (c) 2011, Houston Chronicle. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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