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Anadarko Petroleum Hit With $159M Fine for Deepwater Horizon Disaster

A federal judge ordered Anadarko Petroleum Corp. to pay a $159.5 million civil fine reflecting its stake in the Gulf of Mexico well whose 2010 blowout caused the largest U.S. offshore oil spill.

In a decision on Monday, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans said Anadarko was not at fault for the spill.

But he said the company's 25 percent ownership stake in the Macondo well made it part of the "polluting enterprise" responsible for the April 20, 2010, disaster, which began with an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, killing 11 workers.

Image: Fire boats battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon, off Louisiana, on April 21, 2010.
Fire boats battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon, off Louisiana, in this April 21, 2010 handout file photo. U.S. Coast Guard via Reuters

The penalty equates to $50 per barrel of oil spilled, well below the maximum $1,100 per barrel, or $3.51 billion, penalty that Barbier could have imposed under the Clean Water Act.

A $159.5 million fine "strikes the appropriate balance between Anadarko's lack of culpability and the extreme seriousness of this spill," Barbier wrote in a 34-page decision.

In Tuesday morning trading, Anadarko shares were up $1.02, or 1.7 percent, at $60.92.

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The payout may resolve the last major legal uncertainty that Anadarko, which is based in The Woodlands, Texas, faced over the spill.

BP Plc owned 65 percent of the Macondo well, while Mitsui & Co.'s MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC owned 10 percent.

In 2011, Anadarko agreed to pay BP $4 billion to help cover victim claims and cleanup costs.

BP later reached a $20.8 billion settlement with the U.S. government and five Gulf states.

The government had sought a penalty for Anadarko below $3.51 billion but "significantly above $1 billion," reflecting the seriousness of the violation. Anadarko said no fine was justified.

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In a statement, Anadarko said it is pleased that the fine is "far less" than the government sought.

But it also said it may appeal, and maintained that "penalizing a non-operator for events beyond its control is inconsistent with the intent of the Clean Water Act."