Environmental

BP settles criminal charges, shifts focus to civil claims and Feb. trial

BP 435x292 BP settles criminal charges, shifts focus to civil claims and Feb. trialBP pleaded guilty to 14 federal criminal charges Wednesday, including charges for manslaughter involving the deaths of 11 workers killed in the Deepwater Horizon explosion and obstruction of Congress for downplaying the quantity of oil that gushed from the company’s blown-out Macondo well.

BP will pay $4 billion to resolve the criminal charges. Several million dollars of that money will go toward restoring coastlines harmed by the massive 2010 oil spill, which erupted about 45 miles off the Louisiana Coast.  Gulf currents spread the giant slick to the waters off of Mississippi, Alabama and Northeastern Florida, creating billions of dollars in environmental destruction and financial loss.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, who attended the hearing in New Orleans, said the plea deal “moves us one step closer to getting justice for the citizens of Alabama.” Mr. Strange also said that while Alabama stands to benefit from the criminal fines, they don’t resolve the state’s claims against BP for environmental and economic damages, which are set to go to trial February 25.

“I will continue devoting my time to holding BP and the other responsible parties fully accountable for the devastation they wrought on Alabama’s environment and our economy,” Mr. Strange said in a statement. “I look forward to presenting Alabama’s case that BP was grossly negligent when we have our day in court next month.”

The first phase of next month’s trial will aim to assign a percentage of blame for the oil spill among BP and its partners. These civil claims and the amount BP must pay for violating anti-pollution laws could rise substantially if the court finds gross negligence played a role in the disaster.

Lawyers with the U.S. Justice Department and BP have been engaged in talks to settle the federal civil claims from which all Gulf states stand to benefit before the case goes to trial. Many legal analysts believe that it’s in BP’s best interest to settle the claims before trial and expect the payout to be in the $8-billion range.

Sources:

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange
Associated Press