If the story of the Exxon Valdez is the model for the endgame of an oil spill, the legal battles facing the state and its residents will be going on decades after BP’s Deepwater Horizon well is plugged and the oil cleaned from the Gulf of Mexico.

The name of the game is limiting lability. A story from the Washington bureau of McClatchy newspapers says BP’s lowballing the volume of the leak at 5,000 gallons of oil a day could ultimately save the oil giant millions in court. BP only released underwater video of the leak on Tuesday, yielding to pressure from the U.S. government, and  nearly a month after the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank and the well began spewing oil into the gulf. Experts, examining video footage, say the leak is far greater than BP’s estimates, perhaps as high as 95,000 thousand gallons a day.

And it’s that disputed number that will be the measure of the settlement, when the verdict finally comes down.

“If they put off measuring, then it’s going to be a battle of dueling experts after the fact trying to extrapolate how much spilled after it has all sunk or has been carried away,” Lloyd Benton Miller, one of the lead plaintiffs’ lawyers in the Exxon Valdez spill litigation, told McClatchy. “The ability to measure how much oil was released will be impossible.”

Recently, BP has admitted they don’t know how much oil is leaking from the ruptured undersea pipe. Bryan Ferguson, a BP spokesman, told The Advocate, “There is no equipment available to measure the volume leaking.”

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