WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department on Monday announced a final settlement with the oil giant BP of $20.8 billion for its role in the disastrous 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, raising the total from the initial $18.7 billion settlement announced in July.
At either amount, it is the largest environmental settlement -- and the largest civil settlement with any single entity -- in the nation's history.
The U.S. attorney general, Loretta Lynch, called the filing of the final settlement "a major step forward in our effort to deliver justice to the Gulf region in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy -- the largest environmental disaster our nation has ever endured." Gina McCarthy, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, estimated that the final settlement represented $1,725 a barrel of oil spilled in the disaster. The maximum amount that a judge could have assessed in the case was $4,300 a barrel.
The settlement is the resolution of a 2010 lawsuit filed by the Justice Department against BP. It includes civil claims under the Clean Water Act, for which BP has agreed to pay a $5.5 billion penalty, the largest civil penalty in the history of environmental law. Also, it includes natural resources damages claims under the Oil Pollution Act, for which BP has agreed to pay $7.1 billion, on top of the $1 billion it previously committed to pay for early restoration work.
In addition, the settlement includes economic damages claims, for which BP has agreed to pay $4.9 billion to the five Gulf states -- Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas -- and up to $1 billion to local governments. Louisiana, the hardest hit of the states, will receive $5 billion of the $8.8 billion allocated for restoration.
Lynch said the increase in the total settlement represents a "refining of the numbers" over the initial settlement.
"Over time, we refine numbers as the settlement is finalized," she said.
Geoff Morrell, BP senior vice president of U.S. communications, said in a statement that the revised overall figure did not change the settlement announced in July but includes amounts previously spent or disclosed by the company.
Under the draft restoration plan, $8.8 billion would be allocated to restore the ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico.