Judge: BP contract shielded Transocean in spill

NEW ORLEANS - A federal judge has ruled that the rig owner involved in drilling the ill-fated well that blew out in the Gulf of Mexico was shielded by its contract with BP for having to pay many pollution claims in the nation's largest offshore oil spill.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier ruled Thursday, however, that Transocean Ltd. is not exempt from paying punitive damages and civil penalties that arise from the April 20, 2010, blowout 100 miles off the Louisiana coast.

He also says Transocean is responsible for claims that are directly related to pollution caused by its rig.

The ruling comes as settlement discussions continue among BP, the states affected by the disaster and the government before next month's trial.

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BP is reiterating claims first made last April that it is entitled to payment from contractor Halliburton Energy Services for expenses and lost profits resulting from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon offshore oil well disaster.

BP earlier accused Houston-based Halliburton of botching the cement job meant to seal the well. Halliburton says BP is trying to saddle Halliburton with far more than its share of the legal burden.

BP said Halliburton has made inaccurate statements about BP's legal claims. And BP has emphasized it is seeking damages from Halliburton, including costs and expenses for oil cleanup and remediation, lost profits and other costs.

The April 20, 2010, explosion off Louisiana killed 11 rig workers and led to more than 200 million gallons of oil spewing from a well a mile beneath the sea, according to government estimates. London-based BP PLC owned the well and was leasing the Deepwater Horizon rig from Swiss-based Transocean Ltd.

Amid numerous claims and counter-claims made by various parties since the well blew out, a federal civil trial in the case is set to begin in February to assign shares of fault to the companies involved in the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

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