Politics

BP to Pay $4 Billion for Criminal Charges, Civil Fines Pending

By: Michael Peltier News Service of Florida | Posted: November 16, 2012 3:55 AM

BP oil will pay Gulf States $2.4 billion in criminal penalties as part of a $4 billion settlement announced Thursday. The penalties stem from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill that killed 11 workers and sent millions of gallons of crude oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico.

The criminal fines come in additional to civil penalties that may eclipse $20 billion to be paid by BP following the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

The agreement would earmark $1.2 billion for restoration efforts in Louisiana, with another $1.2 billion split equally between Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas.

Under the agreement, BP will plead guilty to 11 counts of felony neglect in connection with the death of crew members aboard the rig that burst into flames in April 2010.

The company also will plead guilty to misleading Congress over the extent of the spill.

BP Group Chief Executive Bob Dudley said in a statement Thursday the company has taken full responsibility for the deaths and ecological damage. Throughout the process, he said the company has tried to do the right thing by paying legitimate claims and cooperating with state and federal officials.

“From the outset, we stepped up by responding to the spill, paying legitimate claims and funding restoration efforts in the Gulf. We apologize for our role in the accident, and as today’s resolution with the U.S. government further reflects, we have accepted responsibility for our actions,” Dudley said.

Jenn Meale, spokeswoman for Attorney General Pam Bondi, said the state was not part of the criminal agreement, but has been deeply involved in the civil case, seeking reimbursement for the damage caused by the 2010 spill.

"We look forward to receiving more information regarding the amount and nature of the relief that the settlement directs to our state," Meale said.
Incoming Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said funds from the criminal settlement will be divvied out by the Department of Economic Opportunity, with 75 percent of the proceeds earmarked for the eight Panhandle counties most affected by the spill.

"This is the first of what I expect to be several settlements and awards that will be reached between BP and the states," Gaetz said. "I'm pleased to see the first set of payments and I look forward to future settlements."

With the criminal charges addressed, Gaetz said he was hopeful that civil claims will now be processed quickly.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson D-Florida, agreed that the settlement marks a significant step by BP toward resolution following the spill, which shut down a Panhandle economy that was just starting to get back on its feet following the 2008 recession.

"I’m happy that the Justice Department brought the hammer down on BP and continues to hold them accountable for the hurt they’ve caused the people, businesses and environment of the Gulf Coast," Nelson said Thursday in a statement. "Now that this is worked out, it’s time to move on to the civil side of things and get Gulf Coast residents every cent they deserve."


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