The oil company BP has reached a tentative settlement with local, state and U.S. federal agencies today, agreeing to pay out $18.7 billion in damages from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill. The oil rig explosion killed 11 people and spilled an estimated 4.2 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
Today’s agreement marks the close of litigation against BP and the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. The money will be paid over the course of 18 years and will be divided among the states. Louisiana attorney general James Caldwell told The Guardian that the money will be used in part for coastal restoration.
“This agreement lets us focus right away on improving the state without further litigation delays and appeals that could take years. I am extremely pleased by the work done by the Court and all the parties in this matter to reach an agreement that will bring great and historic benefits to Louisiana and the Gulf,” said Caldwell.
Environmental damage from the aftermath of the spill, one of the worst in U.S. History, continues to negatively affect the the Gulf. Sand patties contaminated with oil and dispersant chemicals can still be found on beaches. Dolphin populations continue to decline, and birds have lost key habitat.
Last year, a judge overseeing the case ruled that BP was “grossly negligent" in its operating of the oil well. The ruling set the stage for some of the highest possible fines. NPR reports that BP has already spent $28 billion on cleanup and damages paid to individual victims of the spill. The well was owned by offshore drilling company Transocean and was leased and operated by BP. Transocean agreed to a $211 million settlement in May.
The fine includes civil penalties under the Clean Water Act. "Today, I am pleased to say that after productive discussions with BP over the previous several weeks, we have reached an agreement in principle that would justly and comprehensively address outstanding federal and state claims,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch in a statement. “If approved by the court, this settlement would be the largest settlement with a single entity in American history.”