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BP spill trial delayed until February 2013

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Crews aboard vessels around the drillship Discoverer Enterprise continue operations to minimize the impact from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in this June 28, 2010 handout photograph. REUTERS/Walter Shinn/U.S. Coast Guard/Handout
Crews aboard vessels around the drillship Discoverer Enterprise continue operations to minimize the impact from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in this June 28, 2010 handout photograph. REUTERS/Walter Shinn/U.S. Coast Guard/Handout

HOUSTON (Reuters) - A federal judge on Friday delayed until February 2013 the start of a massive trial to determine liability from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, citing tourist events that will keep New Orleans' hotels booked.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans, who is presiding over a massive three-part hearing to decide liability for BP Plc.'s 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill, said the trial will begin on February 25, 2013. That trial, which had been delayed by nearly a year already due to a pending $7.8 billion settlement with private plaintiffs, had been set to get underway on January 14.

At a hearing on Friday, Barbier cited lodging difficulties arising from two huge events to be hosted in New Orleans in early 2013 -- the NFL's Super Bowl on February 3, and the Mardi Gras festival set for February 12.

Barbier declined to delay a hearing set for November 8 on a settlement BP reached with private plaintiffs in March for about $7.8 billion.

The April 20, 2010, explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon killed 11 rig workers and unleashed a torrent of oil from the Macondo well. About 4.9 million barrels of oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico over 87 straight days.

That oil fouled the shorelines of four Gulf Coast states and eclipsed the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska in severity.

(Reporting by Chris Baltimore; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)

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