Judge bars Anadarko e-mails as evidence in Macondo blowout hearing

A federal district judge in New Orleans refused to accept e-mails between Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and BP PLC as evidence in a hearing to determine liability of companies involved in drilling the ill-fated Macondo deepwater well in 2010.

The Houston independent producer, which held a 25% interest in the well that BP operated, has maintained that it was a passive investor who was not involved in day-to-day decisions involving the project.

A fire and explosion after the well blew out on Apr. 20, 2010, killed 11 people and destroyed the Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible drilling rig. As the rig sank, it triggered a leak that spilled more than 4 million bbl of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico that took months to contain and cap.

Judge Carl J. Barbier, who previously ruled that Anadarko was not negligent in the accident, told the US Department of Justice it could not use the e-mails to make the upstream independent face hefty penalties for the accident and spill.

“I don’t think this argument is going to get you anywhere,” said Barbier of US District Court for Eastern Louisiana. “It’s pretty clear to me, once I ruled that Anadarko had no legal duty to intervene in the well and could not be negligent.”

The court held the hearing to consider evidentiary and discovery issues as companies involved in the accident and spill prepare for the federal trial’s Clean Water Act penalty phase.

Reacting to Barbier’s latest ruling, Anadarko Chief Executive Officer Al Walker said it was consistent with previous court determinations that the company was not at fault for the accident and spill. “We look forward to seeing the [CWA] portion of the trial resolved soon.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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