Judge OKs $20 Billion BP Oil Spill Settlement

     NEW ORLEANS (CN) – A federal judge has granted final approval to a $20 billion settlement related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.
     The settlement approved by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier on Monday includes $5.5 billion in Clean Water Act penalties and almost $5 billion to the five states along the Gulf affected by the oil spill Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. The deal will resolve all civil penalties over the oil spill, which resulted in 4.2 billion barrels of oil being spilled into the Gulf of Mexico over the course of 87 days.
     The settlement also requires BP to pay $8.1 billion in natural resource damages, with funds going toward Gulf restoration projects that include restoration of coastal wetlands and wildlife. An additional $600 million will cover other costs related to state and federal reimbursement claims, and up to $1 billion will be given to local governments to settle claims for economic damage from the spill. The spill was the result of the April 20, 2010, explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig 50 miles offshore from Louisiana. The blast killed 11 workers, injured numerous others, devastated birds and marine life and unleashed the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
     In announcing what she called the “historical settlement,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said, “The approval of this agreement will open a final, hopeful chapter in the six-year story of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy.” Lynch further said the settlement “holds BP accountable with the largest environmental penalty of all time while launching one of the most extensive environmental restoration efforts ever undertaken.”
     The agreement accepted by Judge Barbier calls for the money to be paid out over a 16-year period.
     BP, whose website notes the “natural resilience of the Gulf environment” and says “voracious microbes consumed a significant amount of oil after the spill,” did not immediately reply to an emailed request for comment.
     The Glass Lewis shareholder advisory group, a company designed to aid institutional investors, criticized BP in a press release Tuesday for awarding its directors their maximum bonuses for 2015 “despite the company’s lackluster performance.” The press release said BP CEO Bob Dudley’s total 2015 compensation rose 20 percent last year to nearly $20 million, including $2.4 million in bonuses the maximum amount he could have received at year end. Meanwhile, since the start of 2016 BP has announced plans to cut 7,000 jobs and slash spending, the group said.
     Greens called Monday’s finalization of the consent decree an “opportunity to finally achieve justice for the Gulf.”
     Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation said finalization of the settlement “marks the end of a long legal process and the start of a new chapter for the people and wildlife of the Gulf” in an emailed press statement Monday.
     O’Mara, added a word of caution, however, saying “the road to restoration is a long one, and our work is just beginning. We urge the Gulf states and federal agencies to use these funds to back large-scale restoration projects that not only fix what was broken but also work to ensure the future sustainability and resiliency of one of America’s most ecologically and economically vibrant landscapes in the face of climate-driven sea level rise. As a nation, we can’t stop paying attention now that the settlement is final – we must strive to see that the money is spent wisely and efficiently to achieve real and lasting restoration and the renewal of one of America’s greatest ecosystems.”
     The spill was the result of the April 20, 2010, explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig 50 miles offshore from Louisiana. The blast killed 11 workers, injured numerous others and unleashed one of the worst oil spills in history.
     Oil from the spill settled along at least 400 square miles of sea floor and washed up in tar mats, logs and guck sticking to reeds and sand, sullying 1,300 miles of fragile marshes, wetlands and beaches along the Gulf Coast.
     The oil was toxic, resulting in countless deaths to birds, fish, dolphins and other wildlife, interrupting fertilization, resulting in increased dolphin miscarriage and mortality events, interrupting bird nesting patters, and resulting in decreased numbers and mutations in fish and plankton.
     In a statement, BP said “We are pleased that the Court has entered the Consent Decree, finalizing the historic settlement announced last July.

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