Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog
BP Gulf Oil Spill

BP Gulf Spill $20 Billion Settlement Approved

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Vice News, Foxnews, and elsewhere across the media, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier has granted final approval to a settlement estimated at $20 billion over the 2010 BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Many observers felt Judge Barbier had prefigured the settlement in an earlier case ruling where he noted that BP had been “grossly negligent” with respect to the rig explosion that killed 11 and spilled 134 million gallons of oil into the Gulf.

The settlement calls for BP to pay more than $14 billion to the federal government for claims under the Oil Pollution Act and the Clean Water Act, and $5.5 billion to Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas — the five Gulf Coast states — to settle their suits for economic losses.

While putting an end to the case is desirable, the Huffington Post points out that the finalization of the settlement is not all good news:

despite strong objections from environmentalists and lawmakers, BP can classify around $15 billion of that allocation as a business expense and deduct it from the company’s tax burden. Such a write-off could save the oil giant more than $5 billion.

When BP agreed to the settlement terms in 2015, over 50 members of Congress asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch to preclude the company from deducting the expenses from its taxes. Unfortunately, this did not occur. “Treating the worst oil spill in U.S. history as an ordinary…business expense boggles the mind,” said Lukas Ross, a campaigner for the environmental group Friends of the Earth.

Five years after the spill, tar balls and chunks of weathered oil are still washing up on beaches in the northern Gulf. The government has linked the spill to the deaths of large numbers of dolphins, tens of thousands of birds and turtles, and billions of oysters, one of the Gulf states’ biggest products.

Lieff Cabraser and co-counsel represented property owners, business owners, wage earners, and other harmed parties in class action litigation against BP, Transocean, Halliburton, and other defendants for the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and resulting oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010. Approval of the class action settlement with BP is now final, and has so far delivered over $5.4 billion to compensate claimants’ losses. The medical settlement is also final, and an additional $1 billion settlement has been reached with defendant Halliburton.