Gerald Herbert/Associated Press
BP在美國的子公司「BP勘探與生產」(BP Exploration and Production)將因為破壞自然資源，向聯邦政府和路易斯安那州、阿拉巴馬州、密西西比州、德克薩斯州和佛羅里達州支付至少71億美元，而這一數額還可能進一步提高；因違反《清潔水法案》(Clean Water Act)，向聯邦政府支付55億美元的罰款；因為破壞沿岸各州經濟，向它們支付49億美元的賠償；最後，還要向400多個地方政府支付至多10億美元的賠償。
「如果獲得法院批准，這將成為美國歷史上最大的一單和解協議，」司法部長洛蕾塔·E·林奇(Loretta E. Lynch)在聲明中表示。「它將有助於修復墨西哥灣的經濟、漁業、濕地和野生動物遭受的損害，為海灣地區的數代人帶來長久利益。」
無論是在法庭上，還是在鋪天蓋地的電視廣播廣告中，BP都強調了公司為了減少對墨西哥灣海灘及野生動植物造成的長期環境損害而進行的種種清理工作。BP表示，超過23億美元的罰款會嚴重損害其美國子公司的財務狀況，特別是在當前油價低迷的時期。但負責該案的新奧爾良聯邦地區法院法官卡爾·J·巴比爾(Carl J. Barbier)表示，不管數額有多大，總有一天可以還完。
全美奧杜邦學會(The National Audubon Society)則持比較謹慎樂觀的態度。
BP to Pay $18.7 Billion for Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
July 3, 2015CAMPBELL ROBERTSON and RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA
NEW ORLEANS — The Gulf Coast states and the federal government have reached a tentative settlement with BP for the British oil company to pay $18.7 billion over 18 years, to compensate for damages from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, state officials said Thursday.
The settlement, if approved by a federal judge, could bring to a close the largest unresolved legal dispute arising from the April 2010 explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which left 11 dead and spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
An American BP subsidiary, BP Exploration and Production, will pay at least $7.1 billion, and possibly more, to the federal government and the states of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Florida, for damage to natural resources; $5.5 billion in penalties to the federal government for violation of the Clean Water Act; $4.9 billion to the states to compensate for harm to their economies; and up to $1 billion to more than 400 local governments.
“This is a landmark settlement,” Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama said. “It is designed to compensate the state for all the damages, both environmental and economic.”
BP had already agreed to pay more than $4 billion in criminal fines in a plea agreement over the spill. The company had also reported spending $14 billion in a three-month effort to containthe spill, which left much of the American public spellbound, as news channels broadcast images of the oil escaping the underwater well hour after hour, and of tar fouling Gulf Coast beaches.
In all, the company said it will incur more than $40 billion in costs related to the spill.
The Deepwater Horizon rig, leased by BP and positioned less than 50 miles southeast of the tip of Louisiana, exploded and caught fire on April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers, and then sank. Oil continued to gush from the ruptured well on the seabed until it was capped in July.
Over the course of a two-year trial in New Orleans, the Justice Department had argued that under the Clean Water Act, BP should pay the maximum federal penalty of $13.7 billion, or $4,300 for every barrel of oil spilled, while BP had only set aside about a quarter of that amount for fines in the civil trial.
Testimony in the final phase of the federal government’s civil suit ended in February, and both sides had been awaiting a decision as settlement negotiations continued. The separate lawsuits filed by the states were scheduled to begin going to trial next year.
In deciding to settle the cases, BP’s board “has balanced the risks, timing and consequences associated with many years of litigation against its wish for the company to be able to set a clear course for the future,” Carl-Henric Svanberg, the company’s chairman, said in a statement.
Federal prosecutors had argued that BP deserved the most severe penalties because the spill was the most serious American offshore oil leak in history, and that a big fine would serve as a deterrent to oil companies.
In court and on television commercials that blanketed the airwaves, BP highlighted its cleanup efforts aimed at reducing the long-term environmental damage to Gulf beaches and wildlife. The company said any fine over $2.3 billion would seriously strain the finances of its American subsidiary, especially at a time of lower oil prices. However, Judge Carl J.Barbier of Federal District Court in New Orleans, who presided over the cases, suggested that any fines could be paid over time.
The company has consistently attempted to portray itself as something of a victim of the legal system. For years it argued that Patrick Juneau, the compensation administrator, was doling out excessive and fraudulent payments to businesses and individuals who settled for damages with the company. But in March the company halted its legal efforts to remove Mr. Juneau. BP had estimated that it would pay $7.8 billion to the plaintiffs, but the final total is expected to be considerably higher.
The company has continued to push an advertising campaign arguing that the Gulf environment has recovered faster than experts had expected. But environmentalists contend that it is far too early to judge, and that it could take decades, and several generations of sea life, to determine the full ramifications of a spill that soiled more than a thousand miles of shoreline and a large section of the Gulf seafloor.
An environmental group, Oceana, said the settlement fell far short of what was needed, both to penalize BP and to repair thedamage to the Gulf ecosystem.
“If the court approves this proposal, BP will be getting off easy and we the people will not be fully compensated for the natural resource damages that we suffered,” a vice president of Oceana,Jacqueline Savitz, said. . “$18.7 billion may sound like a lot of money, and it is, but it pales in comparison to what BP owes.”
The National Audubon Society struck a more cautiously positive tone.
“You break it, you pay for it — that’s how this is supposed to work,” said David Yarnold, president and chief executive of the group. “Now Gulf Coast restoration can begin in earnest. It’s time to heal the wounds that BP tore in Gulf Coast ecosystems and communities.”
A partner in the well, the Houston oil company AnadarkoPetroleum, meanwhile, argued that it deserved no penalty at all since it did not operate the well and could not be held responsible for mistakes that were made. The government said Anadarko, which remains a major operator in the Gulf, shared a moral responsibility as a part owner of the well.
Officials cautioned that some details remained to be worked out, including the exact amounts to be paid to local government agencies, and the timing of payments. The agreement also does not end some of the litigation brought by private individuals and businesses over the oil spill.