BP and the other companies deemed responsible for the spill face billions of dollars in penalties. If BP is deemed negligent under the Clean Water Act by the courts, the company will have to pay $1,000 for every barrel of oil spilled into the Gulf. If the courts find that BP was grossly negligent, the company will have to pay $4,200 per barrel.
Last year's spill spewed about 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf, meaning BP could face fines ranging from $5.4 billion to $21.1 billion. (The Hill, 9/21/2011)