BP Oil settlement set at $20 Billion
A New Orleans federal judge in the US state of Louisiana has granted final approval to an estimated $20bn settlement over the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
At the US district court in New Orleans judge Carl Barbier has issued an order confirming the final agreement that BP reached in July last year. The payout is the largest-ever civil settlement with a single entity.
The disaster claimed the lives of 11 workers and poured approximately 134-million gallons of oil into waters along the Gulf coast.
If the penalties imposed on BP seem huge, then it puts into perspective the sheer scale of the damage inflicted by one of the worst environmental disasters ever. The massive loss of marine life and the destruction of beaches and coastal marshes severely affected the economies of the US coastal states of Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida, and so too did the negative impact on the health of those who assisted in the clean-up. These states are now set to benefit from the settlement, which will be paid out over a period of 16 years.
If the total cost of the uncapped settlement agreements reached in 2012 after further criminal and civil court battles between BP, businesses and private individuals are factored in, then the total cost to BP, which includes its initial clean-up efforts, is more in the region of $53bn. A statement by the US Attorney General, Loretta Lynch expressed her satisfaction at the petroleum giant being held so emphatically accountable for a disaster that will go down in American environmental history. There are, however, aspects of the massive pay-out that are not as pleasing to some.
Lukas Ross of Friends of the Earth released his own statement regarding BP?s culpability and its long-awaited accountability. In an ironic twist to this tragic saga he points out, ?We are saddened to learn that the gross negligence of BP continues to enjoy taxpayer subsidies.? This is in reaction to the fact that, although the civil penalties are excluded from being tax-deductible, other settlement costs may well carry this benefit. However, the general consensus is that, in every sense of the word, justice has ?largely? been done and that the focus now is on preventing a similar disaster from occurring.
David Uhlmann, a professor of law at a Michigan university, questions whether enough has been learned from this tragedy to prevent such environmental catastrophes from happening again. Hopefully, what he describes as a ??long, sad chapter in American environmental history?, will remain just that.