NEW ORLEANS — Deepwater Horizon Trustees have announced an $8.8 billion settlement with BP, part of the $20 billion proposal reached earlier this week and the largest settlement paid by a single entity in federal law enforcement history.
"The trustees recognize the historic significance of this settlement — the largest recovery of damages ever for injuries to natural resources," Deepwater Horizon Trustees said in a press release. "This settlement is a momentous step toward restoring the Gulf of Mexico, bringing an unprecedented amount of funding dedicated to this iconic ecosystem."
Deepwater Horizon Trustees aren't otherwise saying much.
"We have nothing to add beyond the attached statement," Bill Sherman, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's director of communications and external affairs, said in an email to the Louisiana Record.
The settlement stems from the April 20, 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon Macondo oil well drilling platform that unleashed the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history. A sea-floor gusher that had been tapped by the platform, operated by Transocean under contract for BP, flowed for 87 days with federal government estimates of 4.9 million barrels released into the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven people were killed in the initial explosion.
In the flurry of lawsuits that followed, BP sued Transocean, cementer Halliburton and blowout-preventer manufacturer Cameron, claiming those companies bore at least partial blame for the disaster. In September 2014, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier found BP guilty of gross negligence and willful misconduct under the Clean Water Act (CWA). Barbier apportioned 67 percent of the blame to BP, 30 percent to Transocean, and 3 percent to Halliburton.
A consent decree entered by a federal court in New Orleans on Monday is expected to resolve civil claims against BP. The settlement resolves the U.S. government’s civil penalty claims under the Clean Water Act, as well as claims about natural resources damages claimed under the Oil Pollution Act. The settlement also covers economic damage claims by the affected Gulf states and local governments. Altogether, the settlement comes to more than $20 billion.
Part of the consent decree breaks down like this:
Clean Water Act civil penalty, $5.5 billion; natural resource damages and early restoration costs, $8.1 billion; and injuries to natural resources that may in the future become apparent, $700 million
The settlement also includes $600 million for additional claims, such as those filed under the False Claims Act. BP also is required to pay interest with much of the consent decree payout.
For its part of the settlement, Deepwater Horizon Trustees Council plans to start implementing restoration as described in its comprehensive restoration plan.
That plan is in line with a final decision reached by Deepwater Horizon Trustees to select a comprehensive, integrated, ecosystem restoration alternative developed for the trustees' approach for restoration implementation. The court-approved decision and the settlement now allow the trustees to begin implementing restoration. Trustees still are accepting public input to develop project-specific restoration plans.
"The Trustees would not have reached this day without the commitment of thousands of people at the local, state, and federal levels who contributed their expertise to formulate the restoration plan," the press release said. "The Trustees owe them a debt of gratitude and a pledge to continue to do all we can to restore the Gulf of Mexico for the benefit of its natural resources and those that depend on them for their livelihood and recreational use."