By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal by a former BP Plc executive who contested whether he can be charged with obstruction of Congress for downplaying the severity of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Prosecutors say David Rainey misled members of Congress over the amount of oil spilled in the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident.
Rainey’s legal argument on appeal was that the government missed the deadline to file an appeal after a district court judge dismissed his obstruction charge.
He was also charged with making false statements to law enforcement agents, which was not at issue in his Supreme Court appeal. He has pleaded not guilty.
In June 2014, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said a lower court judge misinterpreted the obstruction statute in dismissing the charge against Rainey, a former BP exploration vice president.
The April 20, 2010, explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig led to 11 deaths and the largest U.S. offshore oil spill.
Prosecutors accused Rainey of telling the House of Representatives subcommittee on energy and environment on May 4, 2010, and in a subsequent letter that just 5,000 barrels of oil a day were being released, when his own estimates pointed to a much higher flow rate.
BP agreed to pay $4.5 billion in fines and other penalties and pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to the spill. It is also facing up to $13.7 billion in penalties under the Clean Water Act.
The case is U.S. v. Rainey, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 14-374.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)