BP set to pay largest environmental fine in US history for Gulf oil spill

BP set to pay largest environmental fine in US history for Gulf oil spill

BP has agreed to pay a record environmental fine of $18.7bn to settle legal actions brought by the US and several states over the fatal 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The US justice department, along with the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas and Florida, all sued BP for damages not covered by the company’s earlier settlements with businesses and individuals harmed by the worst offshore spill in US history.

The settlement ends all litigation between BP, the states and the US government and allows the company to pay over 18 years. BP’s share price rose on the news.

Last September, judge Carl Barbier, who has overseen the tortuous legal case resulting from the disaster, ruled BP had been “grossly negligent” in its handling of the well. The decision opened up BP to the highest possible fines.

The company will pay $7.1bn in “natural resource damage assessment”, and the money will be divided among the states and earmarked for environmental cleanup projects related to the spill. BP was fined $5.5bn under the Clean Water Act.

Some environmentalists were disappointed with the fine, which has yet to receive court approval. Jacqueline Savitz, vice-president for Oceana in the US, said: “If the court approves this proposal, BP will be getting off easy and ‘we the people’ will not be fully compensated for the natural resource damages that we suffered, and the law requires that the public is made whole for those damages.

“For these two payments alone, Clean Water Act violations and natural resource damages, BP would be getting away with less than half of what the law would justify,” she said. “The court should not let BP get off the hook without fully compensating Americans for what was lost. A low-end settlement would not only cheat the public, but it would send the wrong message to BP and the other companies that drill in our oceans, telling them that they may not have to pay for the future damages they cause.”

Source: The Guardian

Date: July 2015

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