BP, plaintiffs' proposed settlement leaves claims, penalties unaddressed

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wwltv.com

Posted on March 3, 2012 at 7:11 PM

Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News
Email: mrodriguez@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mrodriguezwwl

NEW ORLEANS-- The proposed landmark settlement over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill would aim to tackle claims brought by upwards of 100,000 people across the Gulf coast: individuals, property owners and businesses affected by the spill both financially and medically.

"It does the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people," said a joint statement from Stephen Herman and James Roy, who represent the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee.

BP released their own statement Friday night, heralding the settlement.

"The proposed settlement represents the significant progress toward resolving issues from the Deepwater Horizon accident," said BP CEO Bob Dudley.

The plaintiffs' attorneys said there is no cap on the amount of money BP will pay, but the oil giant estimates it would be around $7.8 billion dollars. The agreement, though, still needs to be approved by a federal judge.

"Certainly, the settlement that was reached yesterday is a big deal," said attorney and legal analyst Donald "Chick" Foret.

While the proposed deal is significant, Foret said it leaves several areas unresolved-- mainly claims from federal and state governments, which could be worth billions more.

"You still have the federal government who is out there as plaintiff in this case," he said. "You also have the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama that are still out there."

The state of Louisiana and others could very well still go to trial, as they seek money for the restoration of coastline affected by the spill. That was something Governor Bobby Jindal addressed hours before the settlement announcement.

"Bottom line is, we're going to make sure we hold BP responsible for restoring the damage," said Gov. Jindal, R-Louisiana. "This caused severe damage to a lot of people's livelihoods and to our coastline. We're still cleaning up oil as we speak today."

The Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA), which oversees the state's coastal restoration, said attorneys have been preparing to go to trial for some time.

"There is an excellent chance that we will go to trial on the remaining components. The state's been preparing now for over a year and half," said Garret Graves, who heads the CPRA. "So, we're very much prepared to do that and hope that we can do it as soon as possible to resolve these outstanding injuries."

Environmental advocates said injuries to the coast and marine life need to be addressed sooner, rather than later-- and that much remains on the table.

"The thing is still out there, are the Clean Water Act fines, the penalties, that could be $5-$21 billion-- which from our perspective, as an environmental organization, that's where the real golden ring is-- is getting those resources back into the Gulf to do the large scale restoration," said Aaron Viles of the Gulf Restoration Network.

However, how much money comes from those fines won't be clear until all of the legal wrangling wraps up. The trial that was set to start Monday in federal court in New Orleans has been postponed because of the settlement. No new court date has been set.

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