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The Brief: Sept. 5, 2014

A U.S. district judge in New Orleans found BP to be "grossly negligent" in the 2010 Gulf oil spill, opening the door to potentially $18 billion in fines that could raise doubts about the oil company's future.

A photo of the Deepwater Horizon Fire in the Gulf of Mexico on April 22, 2010.

The Big Conversation

A U.S. district judge in New Orleans found BP to be "grossly negligent" in the 2010 Gulf oil spill, opening the door to potentially $18 billion in fines that could raise doubts about the oil company's future.

In rejecting BP's contention that it shared fault equally with two contractors — Transocean and Halliburton — "the ruling stands as a milestone in environmental law given that this was the biggest offshore oil spill in American history, legal experts said, and serves as a warning for the oil companies that continue to drill in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, where high pressures and temperatures in the wells test the most modern drilling technologies," wrote Campbell Robertson and Clifford Krauss of The New York Times.

Any additional fines would come on top of the $28 billion already spent by BP on cleanup and damage claims. The $18 billion figure reflects Judge Carl Barbier's finding of gross negligence. The Times noted that BP has just $3.5 billion set aside to pay the fine. Shares in BP fell about 6 percent in reaction to the Thursday ruling.

BP said it would appeal but legal scholars consulted by the Times said the company would have difficulties appealing the ruling.

The Day Ahead

•    Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis is on the campus of the University of North Texas in Denton for a noon rally.

•    The GOP nominee to represent Senate District 10, Konni Burton, hosts a breakfast fundraiser at 8 a.m. on Saturday. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, will attend as a special guest.

•    The Joint Interim Committee to Study Education for a Skilled Workforce meets at 10 a.m. in the Capitol Extension to make recommendations to better align the educational system with the needs of the labor market. (agenda)

Trib Must-Reads

For Van de Putte, Questions About Private, Public Work, by Jay Root

Free Speech Case Springs From Fracking Dispute, by Jim Malewitz

Analysis: For Voters, a Few Discouraging Words, by Ross Ramsey

Democratic Lawmakers Ask For More Mobile Voter ID Units, by Terri Langford

Wallace Hall Case Will Come Before Grand Jury, by Reeve Hamilton


Taxpayers and workers gouged by labor-law dodge, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Tesla dashes Texas’ hope for gigafactory, Austin American-Statesman

Nelson Wolff wants better regulation of flaring in the Eagle Ford, San Antonio Express-News

Xerox agrees to temporarily turn over Medicaid records, Houston Chronicle

How’s that new health care contract for state workers, retirees working out? Some lawmakers raise red flags, The Dallas Morning News

State district court judge sanctioned, McAllen Monitor

A Lame Civil Rights Record, Politico

Quote to Note

“The only two options are that Rick Perry is a complete imbecile and he has no idea who these people are and what they’ve done and how the conservative base — who votes in primaries — feels about these guys, or he’s doing it on purpose because that’s the kind of message he wants to send. ... It will be an issue. We will make it an issue.”

Keli Carender, the national grassroots coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, who is not a fan of Perry's recent hiring decisions, including lobbyist Henry Barbour, former Clinton aide Mark Fabiani, and McCain-Palin campaign chief Steve Schmidt

Today in TribTalk

The real stakes of the Perry indictment, by Joshua Blank and Jim Henson

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation With Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa and Republican Party of Texas Chairman Steve Munisteri, on Sept. 10 at The Austin Club

•    The full program has been announced for the 2014 Texas Tribune Festival, Sept. 19-21.

Students at the Fest: Check out the full #TTFstudents program at the Tribune Festival featuring exclusive events, a private lounge and more. Register for just $50, or volunteer and attend for free!

•    A Conversation With U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, on Sept. 24 at the UTSA Downtown Campus in San Antonio.

•    A Conversation With Kathie Glass, 2014 Libertarian Nominee for Governor, on Oct. 2 at The Austin Club

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Energy Environment Health care Politics Rick Perry Ted Cruz Wendy Davis