By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Experts for oil giant BP and the federal government will make their cases this week on one of the most contentious debates that followed the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill: how much oil got into the ocean.
At stake are billions of dollars in penalties under federal pollution laws.
Justice Department experts estimate that 176 million gallons spilled into the Gulf after the blowout. BP has urged Judge Carl Barbier to use an estimate of nearly 103 million gallons in calculating any Clean Water Act fines.
Using the government's figures, a maximum penalty if BP is found grossly negligent could total $18 billion. Using BP figures, the maximum would be around $10.5 billion.
Both sides agree that 34 million gallons escaped the well but were captured before the crude could pollute the Gulf.