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U.S. Judge Approves $20B Settlement over BP Oil Spill

A New Orleans federal judge granted a $20 billion settlement over the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, ending years of litigation over the worst offshore oil spill in history. The settlement was first announced in July, includes $5 billion in civil Clean Water Act penalties and billions to cover environmental damage. The money is to be paid out over roughly 16 years. The U.S. Justice Department has estimated that the settlement will cost the oil giant as much as $20.8 billion, the largest environmental settlement in U.S. history as well as the largest-ever civil settlement with a single entity.

Judge Carl Barbier, who approved the settlement, previously ruled that BP was “grossly negligent” in the offshore rig explosion which killed 11 workers and dumped 134 million-gallon spill. The order came nearly five years to the day after an oil rig off the coast of Louisiana — the Deepwater Horizon — exploded, sending millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf. The spill ultimately spread across 43,000 miles, devastating the coast from Florida to Texas. A report released last year by the National Wildlife Federation found that sea creatures were still struggling, if not dying in large numbers.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement Monday that the order was one more step toward helping make the region’s economy whole and to correct “the worst environmental disaster in American history.” “BP is receiving the punishment it deserves, while also providing critical compensation for the injuries it caused to the environment and the economy of the Gulf region,” Lynch said. In a statement, BP spokesman Geoff Morrell said: “We are pleased that the Court has entered the Consent Decree, finalizing the historic settlement announced last July.”

While overall reaction to the settlement has been positive, there were lingering complaints that some of the BP payments may be tax-deductible for the oil giant. Court documents state that the civil penalties will not be tax deductible, although other settlement costs could be. “We are saddened to learn that the gross negligence of BP continues to enjoy taxpayer subsidies,” Lukas Ross of Friends of the Earth said in an emailed news release.

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