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July 2, 2015

With government entity deal offers, is BP finally changing its tune?

by: Joseph F. Rice

Today, BP disclosed to its investors that it recommends a $18.7 billion settlement to resolve the claims by the United States, the five Gulf Coast states, and local governments that filed suits against the oil company as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon tragedy. Could BP finally be realizing that 2015 may be the year in which it must accept the responsibility for the damages it owes the Gulf Coast area due to the 2010 oil spill and its aftermath? I certainly hope so and this new development of BP making settlement offers to individual government entities and municipalities certainly is positive.

The entities that are resolving their claims in this settlement were excluded from the Economic Loss and Property Damages Settlement Agreement. BP put these claims through the ringer, as they have during this whole process, but I am pleased that this settlement will finally offer relief to more than 500 government entities, including the states and those Gulf Coast cities and counties that presented claims. While each offer is unique and will be subject to final approval by the local governing bodies, we understand that most have received offers from BP based upon recommendations by the “Neutrals,” a panel appointed by Judge Barbier and consisting of U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan, Claims Administrator Patrick Juneau and former FBI director and Special Master Louie Freeh.

With this, I am glad that much needed dollars will start flowing back into the Gulf Coast economy. While this won’t be immediate as there are steps that have to happen before the funds are finally seen, progress is being made. Perhaps now we can even reset the approach and allow the original Economic Loss and Property Damages settlement parameters that were agreed upon by all parties involved to be implemented as intended. The fighting and delays have resulted in an increase in administrative cost of hundreds of millions of dollars with no real purpose.

This settlement has no direct impact on the Economic Loss and Property Damages class and these funds do not reduce BP’s obligation to fully fund the Class claims as approved.

I know many claimants under the Economic Loss and Property Damages Settlement Agreement have still not seen relief, which is frustrating. We will continue our work to help these businesses and people see compensation soon. While this settlement does not resolve all remaining lawsuits, such as moratorium losses, we will continue to work on finding some resolution for all victims.

For the time being, however, I am truly pleased with the progress and offer by BP and will continue hoping that this turn of events is a signal for more positive movement along the Gulf Coast.

Read the order.