- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 22, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A federal court magistrate has issued a seven-page schedule of hearings, conferences and deadlines leading up to January’s trial aimed at determining how much money BP will owe in Clean Water Act fines as a result of its 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The Jan. 20 date for the trial was set earlier this year by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier. It will be the third phase of litigation to determine penalties arising from the disaster

On Monday, a U.S. magistrate judge issued a lengthy schedule of pre-trial activities, including telephone conferences and deadlines for providing witness and exhibit lists.

Earlier phases dealt with causes of the 2010 rig explosion and estimates of the amount of oil that spewed into Gulf waters as a result of it.

The second phase of the trial took place in October and centered on the amount of oil released into the Gulf when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded April 20, 2010.

Government experts estimated that 176 million gallons spilled into the Gulf. BP attorneys urged Barbier to set the figure at nearly 103 million gallons.

For the trial’s first phase, which ended in April of last year, Barbier heard eight weeks of testimony about the causes of the blowout.

The schedule issued by Magistrate Sally Shushan calls for the trial to conclude Feb. 5.

BP estimates that, since May 2010, it has paid out roughly $11 billion in claims to individuals and businesses over economic losses and damages, plus nearly $1.5 billion to government.

In 2012, the company and a committee representing numerous plaintiffs agreed to a settlement resolving most economic and property damage claims. However, a court-appointed administrator’s interpretation of that settlement remains in dispute.

The company initially estimated the settlement would result in it paying $7.8 billion in claims. Later, as it started to challenge the business payouts, the company said it no longer could give a reliable estimate for how much the deal will cost.