BP to pay $4.5 billion in oil spill settlement (+video)
The well on the sea floor spewed an estimated 172 million gallons of crude in the Gulf, fouling marshes and beaches, killing wildlife and shutting vast areas to commercial fishing.
After several failed attempts that introduced the American public to such industry terms as "top kill" and "junk shot," BP finally capped the well on July 15, 2010, halting the flow of oil after more than 85 days and putting an end to one of the most closely watched spectacles on TV and the Internet: the live spill-camera image of the gushing crude.
Nelda Winslette's grandson Adam Weise of Yorktown, Texas, was killed in the blast. She said somebody needs to be held accountable.
"It just bothers me so bad when I see the commercials on TV and they brag about how the Gulf is back, but they never say anything about the 11 lives that were lost. They want us to forget about it, but they don't know what they've done to the families that lost someone," she said.
The spill exposed lax government oversight and led to a temporary ban on deep-water drilling while officials and the oil industry studied the risks, worked to make it safer and developed better disaster plans. BP's environmentally friendly image was tarnished, and CEO Tony Hayward stepped down after the company's repeated gaffes, including his statement at the height of the crisis: "I'd like my life back."
The cost of BP's spill far surpassed that of the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989. Exxon ultimately settled with the U.S. government for $1 billion, which would be about $1.8 billion today.
The government and plaintiffs' attorneys also sued Transocean Ltd., the rig's owner, and cement contractor Halliburton, but a string of pretrial rulings by a federal judge undermined BP's legal strategy of pinning blame on them.
U.S. District Carl Barbier in New Orleans will have the final say over the settlement.
He is also the judge deciding whether to give final approval to the $7.8 billion deal involving shrimpers, commercial fishermen, charter captains, property owners, environmental groups, restaurants, hotels and others who claimed they suffered financial losses.
Relatives of workers killed in the blast have also sued. And there are still other claims against BP from financial institutions, casinos and racetracks, insurance companies and local governments.
Associated Press writer Pete Yost in Washington contributed to this story.
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