04/09/2014 12:32 EDT | Actualisé 04/09/2014 12:34 EDT

Marée noire: BP coupable de grave négligence, mais ira en appel

FILE - In this June 3, 2010, file photo, a brown pelican is seen on the beach at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast. The Justice Department on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010, sued BP and eight other companies in the Gulf oil spill disaster in an effort to recover billions of dollars from the largest offshore spill in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

Le géant pétrolier britannique BP a vivement contesté la décision d'un juge américain qui l'a estimé coupable de "négligence grave" en provoquant la marée noire de 2010 dans le Golfe du Mexique, et annoncé son intention de faire appel.

Son action a dégringolé de près de 6% en clôture à la Bourse de Londres, après cette décision de justice qui pourrait lui coûter 18 milliards de dollars.

"BP conteste vigoureusement la décision rendue aujourd'hui" et "va immédiatement faire appel", a déclaré le groupe dans un communiqué publié à Londres.

Le groupe a estimé que les conclusions du juge n'étaient "pas soutenues par les preuves fournies lors du procès".

"La loi est claire: se rendre coupable de négligence grave répond à des critères sévères qui n'ont pas été réunis dans ce cas. BP pense qu'une vue impartiale du dossier ne colle pas avec la conclusion erronée de la cour", a expliqué le géant du pétrole.

Il a ajouté que le tribunal, qui n'a pas encore décidé du montant de l'amende due par BP, allait ouvrir de nouvelles auditions à partir de janvier prochain pour la fixer.

"Durant ces audiences, BP va essayer de prouver que sa conduite mérite une amende inférieure au montant maximal" prévu par la législation américaine, à savoir 4 300 dollars par baril déversé dans l'environnement en cas de négligence grave.

Le groupe a ajouté qu'il étudiait les conclusions de la cour fédérale de La Nouvelle Orléans et qu'il s'exprimerait de nouveau à ce sujet ultérieurement.


  • Pelicans
    Oiled pelicans wait to be cleaned at the Bird Rehabilitation Center at Fort Jackson in Buras, Louisiana. (Getty Images)
    Brown pelicans were already a threatened species when the BP oil spill occurred. After the spill, nearly one thousand were collected for cleaning, but more than 500 died. The population has largely rebounded, with the number of brown pelicans reported nesting in 2012 nearly as high as it was pre-spill. But images of the oil-slicked pelicans became an ubiquitous part of the media\'s coverage, and the oil has stuck: Two years later, researchers detected chemical and petroleum pollutants from the BP spill in the eggs of white pelicans in Minnesota, chemicals that could negatively affect embryo development.
  • Bottlenose Dolphins
    Bottlenose Dolphins
    A dolphin swims through the water off the coast of Louisiana. (Getty Images)
    A late 2013 study found dolphins in the vicinity of the BP oil spill showed previously unseen signs of sickness, including lung damage, low levels of adrenal hormones and unhealthy weight loss. \n

    \n\"I\'ve never seen such a high prevalence of very sick animals -- and with unusual conditions such as the adrenal hormone abnormalities,\" one of the study\'s authors, Dr. Lori Schwacke, stated at the time. \n

    \nResearchers also found an \"unusual\" spike in dolphin strandings; according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) findings: In 2013, bottlenose dolphins were found dead or stranded at rates three times higher than the average pre-spill rate.
  • Sea Turtles
    Sea Turtles
    A dead sea turtle is seen washed onto shore April 14, 2011 in Waveland, Mississippi. (Getty Images)
    NOAA research released in August 2013 found large numbers of sea turtle strandings in the years since the spill, with about 500 stranded sea turtles in the area affected every year from 2011 to 2013. (Historically, estimates for strandings in the area would have been closer to 100 per year.)
  • Sperm Whales
    Sperm Whales
    A bloated and burned juvenile sperm whale that had been found dead on June 15, 2010 in the Gulf Of Mexico. (Courtesy of Greenpeace)
    It\'s difficult to measure just how many sperm whales were affected, but one arresting photo of a rotting, burnt sperm whale carcass circulated widely after researchers saw the animal from a ship about 77 miles from the Deepwater Horizon site in June 2010. A 2013 study of sperm whale skin samples found higher than usual levels of genotoxic metals in Gulf of Mexico whales after the spill, with the whales closest to the site of the spill with the highest levels. \n

    \nThe genotoxic metals, including nickel and chromium, are capable of damaging DNA, causing lasting genetic impacts on generations of whales. In the short term, even a few whale deaths can affect an entire population as sperm whales, already an endangered species, give birth to very few calves. \n

    \n\"As soon as we get to the level of three deaths caused by human interaction -- and this would include the oil spill -- that would jeopardize that particular sperm whale population,\" Celine Godard-Codding, an environmental toxicologist at Texas Tech University, told National Geographic.
  • Loons
    A common loon, photographed on May 6, 2012 at Port St. Joe, Florida. (Flickr)
    As water birds, loons are vulnerable to water pollution -- and researchers have found they were indeed affected by the spill. A 2013 study of loons turned up dangerous levels of PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) in their bloodstreams, which could contribute to anemia, weight loss, liver damage, cancer, immunosuppression and other health issues.
  • Red Snapper
    Red Snapper
    A bucket full of red snapper catch sits in Water Street Seafood in Apalachicola, Florida. (Getty Images)
    In the immediate aftermath, red snapper in the affected area were found with lesions and rotting fins. While such physical scarring are less common in fish four years later, a recently published study conducted between 2011 and 2013 found the population of young snappers in the Gulf unusually small, with a noticeable decline in other reef fish as well.
  • Oysters
    A mountain of oyster sheels lies outside the BP oil spill cleanup operations center on May 4, 2010 in Hopedale, Louisiana. (Getty Images)
    The Gulf Coast is home to about two-thirds of American oysters, but that population was significantly impacted by the spill. As non-moving organisms, oysters couldn\'t avoid the spill, and population growth was significantly down in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Across the northern Gulf of Mexico, oyster larvae were much rarer than usual, and mortality was high. According to fisherman, oyster populations are still drastically low (and fisherman can file claims for compensation as a result).
  • Crabs
    A crab skirts tarballs of oil on a beach at sunrise on May 23, 2010 on Grand Isle, Louisiana. (Getty Images)
    Crab populations are also down, with a major drop of blue crabs identified in 2013. One reason could be still-slick marshes, which the crabs could be avoiding as they select their habitats. The remaining crabs were still showing signs of damage as of 2013. \n

    \n\"People are bringing in (crabs) that are really messed up,\" Darryl Felder, a University of Louisiana biology professor, told the Tampa Bay Times. \"The crab catches are really down, and what they\'re getting have big lesions on them -- lesions and fungal or bacterial infections.\"
  • Whale Sharks
    Whale Sharks
    A whale shark photographed on August 11, 2011, in Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, Mexico. (Getty Images)
    These massive fish feed at the water\'s surface for hours. A study published in August 2013 identified uncharacteristic whale shark sightings off the Florida Gulf of Mexico possibly connected to the spill, meaning the oil altered the fish\'s typical migratory paths. But not every whale shark was able to avoid the oil, confirmed biologist Eric Hoffmayer to National Geographic, and the oil could clog or suffocate their gills and contaminate their prey. A year after the disaster, researchers identified the already vulnerable whale sharks as a species uniquely at risk.
  • Tuna
    Bluefin tuna, 2006. (Getty Images)
    The 2010 spill occurred during spawning season for yellowfin and bluefin tuna, meaning the fish embryos, larvae and newborn fish were also affected. According to a recent study, this resulted in defects in heart development, which affects the development of other organs and could lead to shortened lifespans. In addition, according to the NWF report, blackfin tuna, blue marlin, mahi-mahi and sailfish all had fewer larvae in 2010 than in the three years before.