BP 'Got Off Cheaply' With $18.7 Billion Settlement
BP had already estimated economic damages resulting from the Deepwater Horizon disaster at some $43 billion
By Antonia Juhasz July 3, 2015
The U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday that the United States, together with several state and hundreds of local governments, had reached a settlement for all remaining civil claims arising from the April 20, 2010, BP Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed 11 men and set off the largest offshore oil drilling spill in history.
If the proposed consent decree is approved after being submitted for public comment and then court-approval, BP will agree to pay $18.7 billion in fines over the next 15 years to the U.S. federal government and the state governments of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
The federal government had originally sought $18 billion in Clean Water Act (CWA) fines alone. Yet, the $18.7 billion settlement includes not only these fines, but also those meant to address all natural resource damages and restoration, as well as economic losses incurred by state and local governments.
The settlement provides for:
—$5.5 billion in total Clean Water Act fines;
—$7.1 for ecological and wildlife harms and restoration, referred to as "natural resource damages" (in addition to the $1 billion BP had already committed);
—$5.9 billion to settle claims by state and some 400 local governments for economic damages; and $600 million for other claims, including claims for reimbursement of Natural Resource Damages Assessment (NRDA) costs and other unreimbursed federal expenses due to Deepwater Horizon activity.
Mark Lyons, regional administrator for Oxfam America, which has been working for economic equity in the Gulf of Mexico for 20 years, tells Rolling Stone that "BP got off cheaply." He added, "The judge had already found gross negligence, and based on the Clean Water Act formulas, BP should have been looking at $13 to $18 billion for the oil spill alone. Add to that the natural resource damages and the fact that there is enough research on oil spills in general and the shock to Gulf in particular to say that a settlement at this level is both premature and cheap. It's a bargain for BP."
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