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Officials in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana announced an $18.7 billion settlement with BP on Thursday that resolves years of litigation over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
According to Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, more than $6.8 billion will be paid to the state of Louisiana. He said $5 billion would be for natural resource damage, $1 billion would be for economic losses, $787 million in Clean Water penalties via the Restore Act, and he said Louisiana would receive total reimbursement for attorneys’ fees and other expenses.
The settlement announcement comes as a federal judge was preparing to rule on how much BP owed in federal Clean Water Act penalties after millions of gallons of oil spewed into the Gulf. Individual states also were pursuing litigation. Most of those penalties were to be distributed among the states for environmental and economic restoration projects along the Gulf Coast.
The settlement money will be used to resolve the Clean Water Act penalties; resolve natural resources damage claims; settle economic claims; and resolve economic damage claims of local governments, according to an outline filed in federal court Thursday morning.
In arguing against such a high penalty, BP has said its spill-related costs already were expected to exceed $42 billion – even without the Clean Water Act fine. It’s also unclear how much BP will end up paying under a 2012 settlement with individuals and businesses claiming spill-related losses.
Costs incurred by BP so far include an estimated $14 billion for response and cleanup and $4.5 billion in penalties announced after a settlement of a criminal case with the government.
In 2012, BP reached the settlement with plaintiff’s lawyers over economic and property damage claims arising from the spill. In its first-quarter earnings report for 2015, BP said it could estimate at least a $10.3 billion cost. But it also stressed that the cost could be higher, depending on how many legitimate claims were filed by a recently passed deadline.
Earlier this year, a federal judge in New Orleans concluded the third phase of a civil trial pitting the oil giant against the federal government. He had already made two key rulings: that BP acted with “gross negligence” in the rig explosion that resulted in the spill; and that 3.19 million barrels of oil – nearly 134 million gallons – spewed into the Gulf as a result. BP had appealed both those rulings, which set the stage for the a possible multibillion-dollar Clean Water Act penalty.
Article originally published on WWL 870.
WASHINGTON, April 14 (UPI) — The U.S. government said it’s proposing new rules to prevent a repeat of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, though the industry said it’s ahead of the curve.
The Interior Department proposed dozens of new rules for offshore drilling equipment in order to ensure the series of failures that led to the 2010 rig disaster and subsequent oil spill won’t happen again.
“Both industry and government have taken important strides to better protect human lives and the environment from oil spills,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement.
“These proposed measures are designed to further build on critical lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon tragedy and to ensure that offshore operations are safe,” she added.
A district court in Louisiana ruled in September that BP’s activities at the Macondo well, beneath the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico, amounted to willful misconduct. In its 152-page ruling, the court found a series of BP failures at the well “created the catastrophic situation” that led to the 2010 spill.
The incident left 11 rig workers dead and led to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
BP leased the Deepwater Horizon from Transocean. In 2012, oil services company Halliburton was accused by BP of destroying test results on the cement used to seal the well beneath the rig.
The federal rules, if approved, would require companies to offer records up to third-party reviews and require backup equipment to close off any failed infrastructure.
The American Petroleum Institute, which represents the business interests of the oil and gas industry, said it’s already created and revised more than 100 standards meant to ensure safe exploration and production.
“We are reviewing the proposed rules and hope they will complement industry’s own efforts to enhance safety,” API director for exploration and production Erik Milito said in a statement. “Improved standards for blowout preventers are one of the many ways industry has led the charge to make offshore operations even safer.”
Original story by Daniel Graeber of UPI.
It’s been almost five years since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploding, sending gallons upon gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Now, scientists have assessed the wildlife in the Gulf, and have found that it’s still suffering from the oil spill.
“Five years later, wildlife in the Gulf are still feeling the impacts of the oil spill,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, in a news release. “The science is clear that this is not over-and sea turtles, dolphins, fish and birds are still suffering from the fallout. Holding BP fully accountable and using all fines and penalties to restore the Gulf of Mexico must be a national priority.”
In this latest study, the researchers examined wildlife populations. They found that dolphins on the Louisiana coast were found dead at four times historic rates in 2014, and there is increasing evidence that ongoing deaths are connected to the oil spill. In addition, endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nests have declined after the spill, even though they were increasing before it. Exposure to oil also has been shown to cause abnormal development in many species of commercially valuable fish, including mahi mahi and the yellowfin tuna.
“Wildlife from sperm whales to marsh ants are still feeling the effects of the disaster,” said Ryan Fikes, a NWF restoration scientist. “But BP seems to prefer attacking scientists over accepting responsibility. It’s time for BP to quit stalling so we can start restoring the Gulf.”
These latest findings show how the Gulf is still being impacted by the spill, years after it occurred. More specifically, it shows how not only wildlife is being impacted, but how the Gulf states may be affected as well as commercial species continue to fare poorly.
Originally posted by Catherine Griffin here.
Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees took issue with a news statement released Monday by BP, which claims the “…Gulf environment (is) returning to pre-spill conditions” although the Deepwater Horizon oil spill Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees are still assessing the injury resulting from the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
“It is inappropriate as well as premature for BP to reach conclusions about impacts from the spill before the completion of the assessment,” said the Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees in a press release. “Citing scientific studies conducted by experts from around the Gulf, BP misinterprets and misapplies data while ignoring published literature that doesn’t support its claims and attempts to obscure our role as caretakers of the critical resources damaged by the spill.”
More than 100 million gallons of spilled oil. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is more than 10 times the size of the Exxon Valdez. From decades of experience with oil spills, experts say the environmental effects of this spill are likely to last for generations.
The state and federal trustees are engaged in a rigorous, scientific process of injury assessment and are still analyzing the data, conducting studies, and evaluating what happened, according to the trustees release.
BP’s obligation under the Oil Pollution Act is to restore the public’s natural resources injured by the Deepwater Horizon spill to the condition they would have been in but for the spill and to compensate the public for the services of natural resources injured or lost.
Natural resource trustees from Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, NOAA, DOI, USDA, EPA, and DOD to the extent of DOD-owned lands are conducting the NRDA.
BP has abruptly switched legal strategies—again—in the multi-billion-dollar liability fight stemming from the April 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The company dropped a campaign to oust a settlement administrator it had accused of tolerating waste and fraud. The move seeks, in part, to mollify a federal judge in New Orleans who could sock BP with an enormous judgment in an environmental suit filed by the U.S. government.
As the five-year anniversary of the mammoth spill approaches, BP is looking to contain the already-considerable damage to its balance sheet and reputation. Beginning shortly after the disaster, which killed 11 offshore-rig workers and spewed millions of barrels of crude into the gulf, BP set aside billions for cleanup and damage claims and started making payouts. The company’s attempts to avoid protracted litigation failed, however, as certain Louisiana officials and plaintiffs’ lawyers pressed for compensation levels BP refused to meet. So far, the company has paid out more than $28 billion, but legal hostilities continue on several fronts. The eventual financial hit could easily reach $50 billion.
On one front, BP sought to remove a court-appointed administrator overseeing a settlement of certain private business and economic claims. The company accused the official, Patrick Juneau, of running a lax operation that accommodated fanciful claims unrelated to the 2010 spill. BP also alleged that Juneau tolerated rampant fraud.
Juneau denied wrongdoing. Plaintiffs’ lawyers doing business with his settlement organization said BP was trying to wriggle out of a pact that turned out to be more expensive than the company anticipated.
BP had modest success in the courts getting Juneau to modify his methods for determining damage amounts. But the company failed to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and dramatically curtail payouts. Friday, BP made a court filing in New Orleans saying it would rescind its demand for Juneau’s removal.
“This marks the beginning of a new and more productive relationship between BP and the [Juneau] claims program,” John Mingé, chairman and president of BP America, said in a prepared statement. “We appreciate the work that has been done to develop and implement improved processes to, among other things, detect and prevent the payment of fraudulent claims. We share with Mr. Juneau and the claims facility the goal of compensating the people and businesses of the gulf under the terms of the settlement agreement.”
BP originally estimated the settlement at $7.8 billion. The company now concedes that the price tag could reach $9.9 billion. The Juneau operation has already paid out $4.9 billion.
One way of understanding BP’s move today is that, having beaten up on Juneau, the company believes it has done as much as it can to slow settlement payments. BP’s motive for burying the hatchet with a prominent Louisiana lawyer who pushed back hard against the attempt to oust him might also include a desire to mollify the judge who appointed the settlement administrator, Carl Barbier of the U.S. district court in New Orleans.
Judge Barbier has overseen the bulk of the litigation and settlements related to the 2010 spill. When BP attacked Juneau, the judge stood behind his appointee and fellow prominent member of the Louisiana bar. Now, Barbier is presiding over a separate civil trial in which the U.S. Justice Department is seeking in excess of $13 billion of additional damages from BP under the Clean Water Act. Making peace with Juneau looks like an attempt to mend relations with a jurist who has tremendous discretion to determine the penalty BP will pay for its negligence five years ago.
Paul Barrett, Bloomberg, as originally posted.