Dundas is now rooting for the maximum possible verdict in the civil case -- $50 billion in fines. But he says there's only one punishment that would really get BP and other oil companies to sit up and take steps to prevent what Dundas says is the overwhelming risk of another large oil spill: being kicked out of the game entirely.
"I think a terrific minimum would be to bar them from offshore drilling," he said. "That's really the only standard that's going to get oil companies to pay attention."
The head of a trade association representing BP and other oil and gas operators in Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico said Wednesday that BP has already complied with government requirements.
"BP has done everything that the federal government has asked and more. ... This new EPA designation is another layer," said Chris John, president of the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association. "How much is enough, when the economy in America is trying to dig out of the recession, and energy ... is a very important component to getting Americans back to work?"
The EPA's decision could have a negative impact beyond BP, he said, affecting other companies in the industry who have also complied with regulators.
"The companies that operate out in the Gulf of Mexico, they can go anywhere, they're global. They can drill anywhere in the world," John said. "They have chosen to come back to the Gulf in the past few years. ... This additional statement and designation by the EPA has to play into their decision of where to put their capital."
BP didn't directly address whether it believes it has paid enough for the disaster, but noted Wednesday that it has spent $14 billion in response and cleanup costs, $1 million on restoration projects and $9 billion in compensation and expects to spend $7.8 billion more to resolve the majority of outstanding claims.
The company also pointed out it has acknowledged criminal responsibility, carried out recommendations made by investigators who studied the incident and has taken actions to strengthen safety and drilling standards that exceed federal regulations.
Tiscareno, the oil analyst, said that while the costs to BP have been steep, they are bearable for the company.
The big question is what happens in February, when the civil case goes to trial.
Tiscareno said she expects BP, which has taken a long-term approach to recovering from the spill, will recover financially unless the civil trial nets an "irrational" decision.
A huge verdict could pose problems for BP, Tiscareno said, but she said the government can't go too far in gutting the firm because of all the jobs and tax revenues the company provides.
BP has invested $52 billion in the U.S. in the last five years, employs 23,000 U.S. residents and indirectly supports nearly 250,000 jobs, the company said Wednesday.
"The U.S. needs BP as much as BP needs the U.S.," Tiscareno said.