NEW ORLEANS – BP, five states, and the United States signed a deal over Deepwater Horizon oil spill damage that should lighten the load of U.S District Judge Carl Barbier.

On May 2, they advised Barbier that BP would commit $1 billion of its $20 billion cleanup fund to "early restoration" projects that government agencies will select.

They told him they would identify projects to him as they select them.

They wrote that thea greement "provides an opportunity for amicable resolutions of issues that might otherwise have to be decided by this court."

Alabama and Louisiana signed the deal as plaintiffs in Barbier's court, claiming BP harmed their natural resources.

Mississippi,Florida and Texas joined the agreement although they haven't sued BP.

BP and the governments wrote to Barbier that the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the Department of the Interior, and the states are collecting data on natural resource injuries.

They wrote that they aren't ready to calculate or quantify all the damages.

They wrote that while the process continues, they seek to expedite restoration.

They wrote that plans, including BP's proposed funding, will be subject to public comment.

They wrote that plans will be subject to any environmental review the law requires.

They wrote that BP's commitment is voluntary and the agreement is a cooperative and positive response to the spill.

BP and the United States guarded against loss of leverage in the rest of the litigation.

"BP does not admit any liability or fact arising out of the transactions or occurrences alleged in this action," the wrote.

"BP specifically reserves its right to assert any and all defenses, counter claims, or cross claims that may be available to it."

They wrote that the United States has sought only declaratory judgment of liability under the Oil Pollution Act.

"The United States has asserted a reservation of rights to return later to seek an actual award of damages under OPA."

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