BP has been ordered to pay the largest settlement ever recorded for causing the worst environmental disaster in American history.
$20.8 billion CDN.
“BP is receiving the punishment it deserves, while also providing critical compensation for the injuries it caused to the environment and the economy of the Gulf region,” said US Attorney General General Loretta Lynch at a press conference yesterday.
The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill claimed 11 lives and pumped nearly 134m gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over an 87-day period.
“Ecosystems were disrupted. Businesses were shuttered. Countless men and women lost their livelihoods and their sense of security,” said Lynch about the disaster. Unfortunately, $20.8 billion will do little to disrupt or shutter a company that posted $470 billion in revenue last year.
Individual amounts of around $7 billion will be contributed towards Clean Water Act penalties, five Gulf states – Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas – and people and businesses harmed by the spill. Further payments will cover injuries and losses not yet known that are related to spill, the reimbursement of assessment costs, non-reimbursed costs related to the spill and lost royalties owed to the US on spilled oil.
Despite the hefty price tag, that BP actually did receive the punishment it deserves is highly contestable. The company wasn’t ordered to cease operations, corporate manslaughter charges were never raised, and it’s pretty much business as usual once the fines – mere blips on the balance sheet – are paid. The same cannot be said for the environmental damage inflicted by the spill, which will continue for decades.
Not one person was held criminally liable for the disaster, proving yet again that throwing money at problems too often works out in the favour of the very, very rich.