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BP faces billions in fines as spill trial nears

The huge legal bill for the catastrophic 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is coming due for BP as a federal trial opens Monday to determine the company’s liability for the blowout of its Macondo well.

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In this April 2010 photo, fire boat response crews spray water on the burning remnants of BP's Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig. The gargantuan legal bill for the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is coming due for BP as a federal trial opens Monday to determine the company’s liability for the blowout of its Macondo well.

US Coast Guard/AP

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On the cusp of a trial over the catastrophic 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, phalanxes of lawyers, executives and public officials have spent the waning days in settlement talks. Holed up in small groups inside law offices, war rooms and hotel suites in New Orleans and Washington, they are trying to put a number on what BP and its partners in the doomed Macondo well project should pay to make up for the worst offshore spill in U.S. history.

It is a complex equation, and the answer is proving elusive.

The federal government, Gulf states, plaintiffs' attorneys, BP PLC, rig owner Transocean Ltd. and cementer Halliburton Energy Services Inc. have been in simultaneous and separate negotiations in New Orleans, according to a person with direct knowledge of the talks and others who had been briefed on them.

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Trial is set for Monday, and by Friday, no deal had been reached, several people familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The biggest stumbling block appeared to be the sheer size and sprawling uncertainty over the unprecedented dollar amounts at stake.

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