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Arguments conclude in BP trial on size of Gulf spill

A BP petrol station sign is seen at dawn in west London October 25, 2011. REUTERS/Toby Melville
A BP petrol station sign is seen at dawn in west London October 25, 2011. REUTERS/Toby Melville

By Kathy Finn

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Lawyers for BP Plc and the federal government concluded their arguments on Friday in the second phase of a trial to determine the size of the 2010 U.S. Gulf oil spill, a finding that will be used to set a fine against BP under the Clean Water Act.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier will use evidence presented at this month's trial phase to assign damages some time next year. The damages would be for the blowout of the Macondo well that leaked crude into the Gulf for 87 days and killed 11 men.

A third stage of trial that will cover the environmental impact of the spill and its aftermath. The first phase of the trial, which dealt with the issue of negligence, concluded on April 17.

Potential fines under the Clean Water Act could top $17 billion, an amount close to BP's annualized profits as of last quarter, though the judge has considerable leeway and could assess a much smaller fine for the largest offshore spill in U.S. history.

The second phase of the trial ended the same week that the state of Louisiana said the amount of oily debris being picked up from beaches had risen this year from last year.

(Reporting by Kathy Finn; Writing by Terry Wade; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)

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