BP has agreed to pay $4.5 billion to settle criminal charges related to the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
The U.S. Justice Department announced the settlement Nov. 15. It covers guilty pleas of manslaughter for the 11 lives lost, as well as charges under the Federal Migratory Bird Act and obstruction of Congress.
Some of the money will be distributed to Florida, with portions for habitat restoration.
John Kostyak, vice president of wildlife conservation at the National Wildlife Federation, calls it a "down payment." More fines are expected under the Clean Water Act.
"It all may sound like a lot of money, but this is a very big company and part of these penalties is to deter future recklessness that puts our environment at risk," he said.
The criminal settlement will have to be cleared by federal court.
Kostyak said the more than 200 million gallons of oil spilled is still churning its way toward U.S. shores, and the full extent of damage won't be known for years.
"So there's plenty of oil still out there in the system, a lot of it is deep down in the Gulf and it will take a big storm to stir it up, but that's very possible. We don't know the impact not just of the toxic oil, but all the toxic dispersant that was put in to break up the oil."
BP issued a statement: "All of us at BP deeply regret the tragic loss of life caused by the Deepwater Horizon accident as well as the impact of the spill on the Gulf Coast region."
- Florida News Connection