* Oil giant still faces other claims for compensation
* U.S. Justice Department says it's ready to go to trial
* Settlement "does the greatest amount of good", say lawyers
By Andrew Longstreth
NEW YORK, March 2 BP Plc has
reached an estimated $7.8 billion deal with plaintiffs suing
over the massive 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the company said
on Friday, but the oil giant still faces claims by the U.S.
government, Gulf states and drilling partners.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, in an order made three
days before the case had been due to go to trial, said the
proposed terms of the class settlement would be submitted to
court for approval.
He had already delayed the start of the trial to allow the
Plaintiffs' Steering Committee, representing fisherman and
businesses whose livelihoods they said were damaged by the
explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig and massive oil spill
from the Macondo well, to negotiate.
Lawyers for the committee, Stephen Herman and James Roy,
said the settlement would compensate hundreds of thousands of
"It does the greatest amount of good for the greatest number
of people," they said.
BP said the cost of the proposed settlement would be around
$7.8 billion, including a commitment of $2.3 billion to help
resolve loss claims related to the Gulf seafood industry.
It said the proposed settlement was not an admission of
liability and that BP would assign to the plaintiffs some of its
claims against Transocean and Halliburton.
OTHER CLAIMS PENDING
Apart from BP, which owned 65 percent of the Macondo well,
the main corporate defendants are Switzerland-based Transocean
Ltd, which owned the Deepwater Horizon, and
Houston-based Halliburton Co, which provided cementing
services for the well. They are also suing each other. Several
other companies are involved in the trial.
Eleven people were killed in the explosion on April 20,
2010, and 4.9 million barrels of oil spewed from the mile-deep
well in by far the worst offshore U.S. oil spill.
A settlement would remove a significant portion of the
complex case, but it would not put an end to BP's exposure.
The oil giant still faces claims by the U.S. government,
which is pursuing violations of the Clean Water Act and other
laws, which could result in fines totaling billions of dollars.
BP also faces claims from Gulf states as well as its
"Delays or deals made by other players do not change the
facts of this case and we are fully prepared to argue the merits
of our case based on those facts," said a spokesman for
The U.S. Justice Department said it was prepared to go to
trial to hold those responsible accountable for outstanding
"The United States will continue to work closely with all
five Gulf states to ensure that any resolution of the federal
law enforcement and damage claims, including natural resources
damages, arising out of this unprecedented environmental
disaster is just, fair and restores the Gulf for the benefit of
the people of the Gulf states," department spokesman Wyn
David Uhlmann, a University of Michigan law professor and
former chief of the Justice Department's environmental crimes
section, said the settlement was good news for the victims of
the Gulf oil spill "who will see their losses compensated much
more quickly than the victims of the Exxon Valdez oil spill".
"It also paves the way for BP to negotiate agreements with
the federal and state governments and begin the process of
moving beyond the Gulf oil spill," he said.