Last week’s news of BP’s $18.7 billion settlement with federal and state governments brought to close the second act of one of the worst environmental tragedies of all time. There’s no promise that the third act won’t drag out for decades and ultimately end in heartbreak either.
BP’s structured settlement means the oil producer will pay roughly $1 billion each year over the next two decades to state and local governments impacted by the 3.9 million barrels of oil dumped into the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Of course, there’s no amount of money that could assuage the grief from families of the 11 workers killed in the spill.
But the settlement doesn’t address the hundreds of individual or class action lawsuits, or many of the claims made against BP by local business owners and people since the 2010 spill. Some of those civil cases are still in court, some on appeal, and many are years away from a meaningful conclusion.