US, states announce settlement with BP over gulf oil spill

2015-10-06 15:25
This frame grab image from video provided by BP, shows oil gushing from the blown well in the Gulf of Mexico, where the Deepwater Horizon rig sank last month. (AP Photo)

This frame grab image from video provided by BP, shows oil gushing from the blown well in the Gulf of Mexico, where the Deepwater Horizon rig sank last month. (AP Photo)

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Washington - The Justice Department and five US states on Monday announced a $20bn final settlement of claims arising from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The deal, once approved by a judge, would resolve all civil claims against BP and end five years of legal fighting over a 500 million litre spill that affected 2 000km of shoreline. It also would bind the company to a massive clean-up project in the Gulf Coast area aimed at restoring wildlife, habitat and water quality.

"BP is receiving the punishment it deserves, while also providing critical compensation for the injuries that it caused to the environment and the economy of the Gulf region," Attorney General Loretta Lynch said at a Justice Department news conference.

"The steep penalty should inspire BP and its peers to take every measure necessary to ensure that nothing like this can ever happen again," Lynch said.

The settlement, filed in federal court in New Orleans, finalizes an agreement first announced in July. The next steps are a 60-day public comment period and court approval.

In a statement, BP spokesperson Geoff Morrell said the settlement total announced on Monday includes amounts previously spent or disclosed by the company, and "resolves the largest litigation liabilities remaining from the tragic accident."

Among other requirements, BP would have to pay $5.5bn in Clean Water Act penalties and nearly $5bn to five Gulf states: Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

The company would also be required to pay $8.1bn in natural resource damages, with funds going toward Gulf restoration projects such as support for coastal wetland and fish and birds.

An additional $600m would cover other costs, such as reimbursement for federal and state damage assessment costs. And up to $1bn would go to local governments to settle claims for economic damage from the spill.

BP in 2012 settled with people and businesses harmed by the spill, a deal that's so far resulted in $5.84bn in payouts.

National Audubon Society

A coalition of conservation organizations, including the National Audubon Society and the Environmental Defense Fund, praised the settlement in a joint statement. The groups said that while the full damage of the oil spill may not yet be known, the process "will help bring the Gulf back to the state it was before the spill, and the release of this plan is a positive step toward that end."

But Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said the oil spill had damaged the Gulf region in a way that money could never fix. She said the real solution would be in curbing offshore oil and gas drilling.

"All of this drilling is really just deepening our climate crisis," she said.

The spill followed the April 2010 explosion on an offshore rig that killed 11 workers.

A report by Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Trustees - comprised of representatives from multiple federal agencies and the Gulf states - called the oil spill damages "unprecedented." The report found that deep ocean water currents carried oil from the spill hundreds of miles from the blown-out well.

Oil from the spill was deposited onto at least 1 000 million sq km of the sea floor and washed up onto more than 2 000km of shoreline from Texas to Florida. The oil was toxic to fish, birds, plankton, turtles and mammals, causing death and disease and making it difficult for animals to reproduce.

Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said that besides the toll on human life, "the spill drove Gulf communities into a period of painful uncertainty, forcing questions that no American family should ever have to ask: Is my food safe to eat? Is it dangerous for my kids to play near the shore? Is the air still clean to breathe? And will my businesses ever recover?"

Read more on:    bp  |  us  |  bp oil spill  |  environment

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