US, states strike agree­ment with BP over gulf oil spill

The China Post - - WORLD BUSINESS - BY ERIC TUCKER

The U. S. Jus­tice Depart­ment and five U. S. states on Mon­day an­nounced a US$ 20 bil­lion 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 the 500- mil­lion liter spill.

It also would bind the com­pany to a mas­sive cleanup 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 spokesman Ge­off Mor­rell said the set­tle­ment to­tal an­nounced 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 US$ 5.5 bil­lion in Clean Wa­ter Act penal­ties and nearly US$ 5 bil­lion to five U. S. states: Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mis­sis­sippi and Texas.

It would re­quire the com­pany to pay US$ 8.1 bil­lion in nat­u­ral re­source dam­ages, with funds go­ing to­ward Gulf restora­tion projects such as sup­port for coastal wet­land and fish and birds.

An ad­di­tional US$ 600 mil­lion would cover other costs, such as fed­eral and state re­im­burse­ment claims, with up to US$ 1 bil­lion to lo­cal gov­ern­ments to set­tle claims for eco­nomic dam­age from the spill.

The spill fol­lowed the April 2010 ex­plo­sion on an off­shore rig that killed 11 work­ers. BP ear­lier set­tled with peo­ple and busi­nesses harmed by the spill, a deal that’s so far re­sulted in US$ 5.84 bil­lion in pay­outs.

A re­port by Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon Nat­u­ral Re­source Trustees called the oil spill dam­ages “un­prece­dented.” It 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 400 square miles of the sea floor and washed up onto more than 1,300 miles 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.

U. S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency Ad­min­is­tra­tor Gina McCarthy 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?’”

AP

U.S. jus­tice sec­re­tary Loretta Lynch lis­tens to a re­porters ques­tion dur­ing a news con­fer­ence at the U.S. Jus­tice Depart­ment in Washington, D.C., Mon­day, Oct. 5, to an­nounce res­o­lu­tion of fed­eral and state claims against BP for the April 2010 Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon oil spill, and the restora­tion of nat­u­ral re­sources in the Gulf of Mexico.

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