Thursday, November 15, 2012

Castor and Nelson hail BP settlement that will bring billions of dollars to Gulf states

Posted By on Thu, Nov 15, 2012 at 3:06 PM

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Oil giant BP has agreed to pay the largest criminal penalty in U.S. history over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. According to Florida Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, half of the record-breaking $4.5 billion criminal settlement will head directly to Gulf Coast states impacted by the spill.

As part of the settlement, BP also agreed to plead guilty to 11 felony counts of misconduct or neglect related to the deaths of 11 people in the Deepwater Horizon accident, which released millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf throughout the course of three months.

The Justice Department also filed criminal charges against three BP employees, two of whom are charged with manslaughter in connection with each of the men who died, alleging that they were negligent in supervising tests before the well blowout and explosion that destroyed the rig.

According to a New York Times article, "Prosecutors also charged BP's former vice president for exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, David Rainey, with obstruction of Congress and making false statements about the rate at which oil was spilling from the well."

"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," Sen. Nelson said in a press release. "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."

Significantly, today's proposed settlement does not cover civil damages the federal government is also pursuing against BP under The Clean Water Act. Under guidelines established by Congress for the RESTORE Act, if the court finds the company was grossly negligent, the federal civil case could result in BP being held liable for as much as $21 billion.

Tampa area Congresswoman Kathy Castor also hailed today's announcement. Castor serves as chair of the bipartisan congressional Gulf Coast Caucus.

"The Justice Department's settlement of BP's criminal violations for the Deepwater Horizon blowout is a step towards justice for the families and communities that suffered the tragedy," she said in a press release."BP must be held accountable for the loss of life, economic damage and environmental harm caused by the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout."

According to the Justice Department, $2.4 billion is expected to head to Gulf Coast states. Half of that pot will go toward protecting and preserving coastal environments in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas. The other $1.2 billion will go toward coastal restoration efforts in Louisiana.

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