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British Petroleum settles $21 Billion Lawsuit in Gulf of Mexico Disaster 

The United States announced Monday that the British oil company BP has agreed to pay a record sum of $20.8 billion in a lawsuit settlement related to the disaster that caused the explosion of one of its platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, the Deepwater Horizon, in 2010.

The figure is higher than the $18.7 billion that the company had preliminarily announced in July to settle the main outstanding demands by the largest oil spill in American history. The explosion and subsequent oil spill polluted much of the Gulf of Mexico and caused significant health, economic and environmental damage.

The amount approved, which must still receive final court approval, is the biggest deal with a single entity in the history of the country. It is also a “strong and appropriate” response, said the American general prosecutor, Loretta Lynch, in announcing the deal.

“BP is getting the punishment it deserves while providing key compensation for damages caused to the environment and the economy of the Gulf region,” she added at a news conference in Washington.

The agreement includes the payment of $5.5 billion to the federal government under the Clean Water Act, the largest environmental fine in civilian history.

From the total, about 80% will go to the restoration of the region affected by the disaster. The money, to be disbursed over the next 15 years, will also be accompanied by a “comprehensive restoration plan” also released Monday in Washington.

“To do justice is not just to throw a lot of money and leave. It is also about investing in sustainable ways that empower communities and strengthen the Gulf in the long-term” said Gina McCarthy, the plan administrator of the US Environmental Agency (EPA).

BP has also agreed to pay a total of $8.1 billion to the Government and the five states affected by the destruction of natural resource as it is fit under the Oil Pollution Act.

Additionally, it accepted to reserve and additional $700 million to meet any potential situations that are unknown as of the signing of the agreement pertaining to loss of natural resources.

The British oil company also agreed to pay $4.9 billion to the five Gulf States and another billion to settle claims by local governments.

On April 10, 2010, less than 50 miles from the coast of Louisiana, an explosion destroyed the Deepwater Horizon platform, killing 11 people and causing the spill of millions barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico during almost three months. Oil is still leaking as a result of the explosion.

According to the Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker, the agreement provides “an unprecedented opportunity to initiate a path of economic sustainability for the Gulf Coast now and in the future.”

It will also help local farmers and producers to “think differently”, more oriented to environmental protection, said Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

Now it remains to be seen whether the money will be released to the hundreds of thousands of people who suffered the direct and indirect consequences of the oil spill, especially those who had to go through the death of loved ones who died intoxicated by the oil spill or the fumes formed after the spraying of Corexit over Gulf waters. Much of the money paid by BP should also be invested in truly cleaning the Gulf area, as supposed to using temporary, ineffective, palliative solutions.

If government servants believe this may be a new beginning for Gulf residents, perhaps it may also be a new warning for local and foreign corporations to think twice before acting carelessly against the environment.

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About the author: Luis R. Miranda

Luis R. Miranda is an award-winning journalist and the founder & editor of The Real Agenda News. His career spans over 23 years in every form of news media. He writes about environmentalism, education, technology, science, health, immigration and other current affairs. Luis has worked as on-air talent, news reporter, television producer, and news writer.

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