By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - BP Plc on Wednesday asked Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to allow the company to avoid making payments to businesses demanding compensation for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill while litigation continues.
The company acted after the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted an injunction earlier in the day that had prevented payments being made. Last week, the court had decided not to revisit a decision rejecting BP's bid to block payments to businesses that could not trace their economic losses to the disaster.
Scalia, who has responsibility for emergency applications arising from the 5th Circuit, can either act on BP's request himself or refer the matter to the nine-member court as a whole. There is no specific deadline by which the court must act.
In the new court filing, BP's lawyers say that if the payments are not blocked, "countless awards totaling potentially hundreds of millions of dollars will be irreparably scattered to claimants that suffered no injury traceable to BP's conduct."
The appeals court in March voted 2-1 to authorize payments on so-called business economic loss claims, and said the injunction preventing payments should be lifted. BP already had said it would seek Supreme Court review of the ruling.
BP is trying to limit payments over the April 20, 2010, explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and rupture of BP's Macondo oil well. The disaster killed 11 people and triggered the largest U.S. offshore oil spill.
A lower court judge had ruled that BP would have to live with its earlier interpretation of a multibillion-dollar settlement agreement over the spill, in which certain businesses claiming losses were presumed to have suffered harm.
(Additional reporting by Dan Levine)