deepwater horizon settlement

Claims Filed by Oyster Growers against BP, Dredging Companies and State Dismissed

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Mississippi Oyster growers, who had sued BP Plc, dredge operators, and the state over the damage caused to the oyster leases in year 2010 while building berms intended to catch oil at the time of Gulf of Mexico spill had their suit dismissed in 2 different United States federal courts.

According to the oyster growers, sand and sediment smothered their oyster beds at the time of dredging for constructing the berms, which were then placed along the chain of Chandeleur barrier islands on the east side of the river and a number of barrier islands on the river’s west side. However, depending on the statements given by the lawyer representing oyster growers at the time of a court hearing in January, the suit also asked for setting a precedent which could be used against Mississippi State for protecting the growers from harms resulted from the future restoration projects.

In 2012 July, United States federal Judge Jay C Zainey dismissed the lawsuit filed by the growers against the State CPRA (Coastal Protection & Restoration Authority) that requested the restoration projects be funded by BP Plc to protect the coastline of the state from spilled crude oil as the state hadn’t waived the right to immunity from lawsuits filed in U.S. federal court. The immunity was granted by the 11th Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The rest of the suit against dredging companies (which constructed the berms) and BP Plc was dismissed on last Monday by United States District Court Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans. Barbier said that dredging project was part of the response to the Gulf of Mexico disaster, any harms caused by it has been covered in a 2012 settlement between the British Petroleum Company and the private plaintiffs. Barbier said the settlement covers oyster growers’ damages as well. Barbier had given final approval to the settlement agreement last year. Any of the oyster growers who filed the complaint hasn’t opted out of this deal. Actually, most of them have filed compensation claims against the British oil giant and many of these claims have been paid already.

An individual lawsuit the growers had filed against Mississippi State over the harms caused by berms also was dismissed early this year by a Baton Rouge judge. The judge said coastal protection & restoration projects are exempted from damages claims under the state law.

Corey Dunbar, one of the attorneys represented the growers, did not comment on the rulings.

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Counties in Florida Panhandle to Spend BP Oil Spill Funds

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Pensacola, FL – 3 years after the devastating Deepwater Horizon spill catastrophe contaminated the beaches in Florida Panhandle, millions of dollars in compensation are being spent for building boat ramps and new piers and restoring sand dunes.

Though many wanted more money for their communities, resident and panhandle politicians are extremely happy that their state as well as 8 counties would soon get a portion of the money that BP as well as the other defendants in the Deepwater Horizon spill case.

Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana also are receiving the proceeds’ chunks. In recent days, the government released the 1st bn dollars through the federal Oil Pollution Act (OPA), which evaluates damages against corporations liable for oil spills, and much more could be flowing in through other hearings and the act. Additionally, BP Plc says it’s already spent $3.4 bn in the State of Florida for settlements and claims, promotion of tourism and other costs.

“There’re political negotiations – ultimately, we all were attempting to receive as much as possible for the communities,” said Grover Robinson, the Commissioner of Escambia County, who assisted for developing the distribution plan for the share of Florida.

“This formula is political. Every county and state wants to get more funds for their projects. However, we’ve to work collectively,” Robinson said. Pensacola Beach is in Robinson’s district. The beach saw massive oil at the peak of the Gulf spill and keeps on seeing tar balls.

Escambia, the only county in Florida that saw heavy crude on its beaches, required the assistance of the other counties in the state for securing its portion from the funding received by the state, according to Robinson. Some money will possibly be divided statewide whereas some other is going to be divided depending on the quantity of crude oil washed ashore.

Texas didn’t see any oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon spill. However, it’ll get a share of a fund for states along the Gulf Coast. Other states along the Gulf Coast required political pull of Texas for securing the funding, said Robinson.

Regardless of the way the deal took place, Bahen Privett is simply happy it is done. He said “Pensacola Kayak & Sail,” the store managed by him, suffered huge losses following the oil spill because its consumers stayed away. In FL, 8 counties which had the most adverse effect from the oil spill catastrophe will divide 75 percent of the money received by the state.

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U.S. Accountants Supports BP on Restricting Oil Spill Payouts

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A team of accounting professors in the United States is supporting BP Plc’s battle to hold back compensation payouts over the damage caused by the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, which could add many billions to its mounting bill for the Gulf of Mexico tragedy.

This news came after the Deepwater Horizon Administrator Mr. Patrick Juneau forecasted that in excess of 200000 oil spill claims may possibly be made totally by the individuals and businesses under the settlement agreement BP signed last year for resolving the private claims. The figure is far higher than what the company had expected when it signed the deal.

Paul Clement, a prominent lawyer in the United States, is representing the group of 12 professors. One of the members in the group is Andrew D Bailey, who was once the deputy chief accountant with the United States Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC). Now he is the Professor of Accounting at the Illinois University.

According to a document filed in the court on 10th May, the professors say their intention is to make sure that the accounting principles and terms were construed as well as applied properly when relied on in legal decisions. The team filed this document as an “Amici Curiae” brief. Amicus curiae is someone who isn’t a party in the case, but has interest in the case and its outcome. Amicus Curiae has no connection to either the plaintiffs or the defendants.

BP, which was not at all happy with Juneau’s work, had complained that the administrator was making “absurd’ payouts to the Gulf Coast businesses. The company believes many claims favorably processed by Juneau were actually “fictitious”. However, BP’s request to stop Juneau from making payouts was rejected by a United States federal judge. BP is appealing this ruling now.

Most of the oil company’s disputes against the way Mr. Juneau is using to find out the compensation amount rely on an accounting terms’ interpretation, which the British Petroleum says is very loose. The professors support this argument in their recent court filing. “Identifying expenses and revenues needs far more than a simple consideration of money disbursements and receipts. A judicial ruling to the contrary would be in conflict with the well-established principles of accounting,” the professors say.

Juneau said the filing is concerned with principles of general accounting. “The agreement does not tell you’ve to follow the general accounting rules,” he said.

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Judge Dismisses Criminal Charge against Ex-BP Employee

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A United States federal judge in New Orleans has dismissed the criminal allegation against an ex-BP employee who had been indicted for attempting to obstruct the congressional probe into the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident by lying regarding the quantity of crude leaking from the blown-out Macondo well.

According to prosecutors, David Rainey, a former British Petroleum executive, lied regarding the flow rate of spilled oil to the House Energy & Commerce Committee members during a closed-door meeting on 4th May, 2010 and also in his response to a letter sent to him by Rep. Edward Markey on 14th May. Markey is an American congressman who is United States Representative for Massachusetts’s 5th congressional district. In both the instances, Rainey said the flow rate estimated by him was nearly 5000 barrel per day. However, internal documents of BP indicated that the company believed the actual flow rate was far higher than this.

The blowout, which began on 20th April, 2010, caused a deadly explosion and the largest offshore crude oil spill in the nation’s history.

In a Monday ruling, Kurt Engelhardt, the judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, agreed with Rainey’s lawyers. While dismissing the charge against Rainey, the judge said a meeting or a letter did not represent a formal Congressional probe.

The issue of flow rate is very sensitive as civil penalties that the oil company has to pay under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) are depending on the amount of oil spilled following the Deepwater Horizon blowout. According to the final estimate by the government, the rate was between 53000 bpd and 62000 bpd of crude oil. According to estimates, nearly 4.6 m barrels of crude oil were spilled.

BP Plc agreed to admit guilty to the charge of Obstruction of Congress for Rainey’s conduct as a part of its $4.5 bn criminal settlement deal with the United States Department of Justice which was declared in 2013 November.

However, the 2nd charge, that Rainey lied to federal investigators at the time of an interview in 2011 regarding how he estimated the rate of oil spill, still stands. On this charge, Rainey is facing imprisonment up to 5 years if convicted.

Brian Heberlig, one of the attorneys represented Rainey, said he was happy with the ruling. Heberlig says he hopes the other charge against Rainey also will be dismissed.

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Texas State Files Lawsuit against BP, Transocean, Halliburton and Anadarko over Oil Spill Harms

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Texas has filed lawsuit against British energy giant BP, Switzerland-based Transocean, and other companies involved in the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill blowout that caused the “worst environmental catastrophe” in the United States history.

The state alleges that the companies violated Texas State environmental regulations. The suit seeks damages for financial loss, including loss in tax revenues, and for damage to the natural resources. The state is asking for civil fines for each day of the spill and each barrel which was released into the GoM.

These corporations engaged in wanton and willful misconduct, which resulted in the catastrophe, said Greg Abbott, the Attorney General of Texas. The 43-page complaint was filed by Abbott on last Friday (17th May, 2013) in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas in Beaumont. The complaint states that Deepwater Horizon spill destroyed, damaged or severely injured the natural resources of the state.

In an individual proceeding, a federal judge in New Orleans (LA) extended the court trial of Kurt Mix, a former British Petroleum Engineer who was charged in the very first Gulf oil spill-related criminal case, to December 2013. It had set to start on 10th June initially. Mr. Mix, a Katy (Texas) resident, was charged by the United States Department of Justice last year for allegedly deleting text messages about the flow rate of the oil spill from his iPhone. Earlier, the trial had been postponed to June from February.

The lawsuit filed by suit names London-based BP Plc, owner and operator of the blown out Macondo well; Transocean Ltd, the owner of the exploded Deepwater Horizon rig; and Halliburton, the company that provided cementing services for BP’s Macondo drilling project, as defendants in the case. Texas State is also suing Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, which had a 25% stake in the Macondo drilling well.

TX is the 5th state along the GoM to file a suit over the Deepwater Horizon Catastrophe against the companies involved in the Macondo accident. Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi had filed similar suits against BP last month.

The lawsuit filed by the state “preserves the interest of Texas in getting economic and environmental resource damages,” said Tom Kelley, a spokesperson for the office of the attorney general. “The amount of adequate damages will be determined by a final settlement or a court verdict,” he said.

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LA Lists 39 Coastal Restoration Projects

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Coastal officials in Louisiana have made a list that contains 39 coastal restoration projects which they believe will fully or at least partially funded by the money federal agencies and the state hope to get on account of the April 2010 BP oil spill devastation in the Gulf of Mexico.

The list is available on the internet as part of a presentation created in PowerPoint. It includes 19 restoration projects at area parishes in New Orleans – including 9 diversions, 6 barrier islands, 3 projects which will utilize sediment pipelines for rebuilding wetlands, and establishment of a wave barrier for oyster reef along the Biloxi Marsh’s southern edge.

The projects’ list was published on Wednesday during the regular meeting of the CPRA (Coastal Protection & Restoration Authority). The CPRA has promised to gather more suggestion from the public on what restoration projects have to be considered prior to the finalization of the list for authority approval.

The exact amount of money that is going to be funneled towards these restoration projects is still not clear. However, it is believed that the amount would be substantial.

The British oil giant has already said that it would pay $671 m for fisheries science facilities, oyster recovery and coastal restoration in the Gulf Coast States as part of its early restoration agreement under the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) provisions of 1990 Oil Pollution Act (OPA).

The Natural Resources Damages Assessment process requires parties involved in the oil spill case to work with federal and state agencies that act as trustees for approving projects for restoring the natural resources’ damages and compensating the public for their loss of use of the resources at the time of and following the oil spill catastrophe.

Some of the early money under the NRDA process will be given to the NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) as well as the United States Fish & Wildlife Service for different projects to be carried out in Louisiana.

Following a settlement agreement with the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) to resolve the oil spill-related criminal charges, which include the death of 11 crew members in the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig blast that followed the blowout of BP-operated Macondo well, the NFWF (National Fish & Wildlife Foundation) would help construct several sediment diversion and barrier island projects in Louisiana using $1.2 bn from BP Plc and $75 m from Transocean Ltd. Both the companies will pay the money over the next 5 years.

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AL Groups Asks for Transparency in Gulf Oil Spill Projects

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Spanish Fort, AL – At Friday’s AL Gulf Coast Recovery Council (AGCRC) meeting, several environmental group leaders demanded for appointing a citizens committee to ensure the fairness and transparency in the choice of projects that are funded by federal RESTORE Act fines from British oil giant BP Plc.

Under the Act, 80 percent of the Deepwater Horizon spill fine money has to be distributed among 5 spill-impacted states along the Gulf of Mexico.

According to the council members, they’re looking into the options and will try to work out the finest way for going about doing it. The members said they are thinking about ways to get input from the public in Baldwin and Mobile counties.

The council met at 5 Rivers (Alabama’s Delta Resource Centre) on 10th May for talking about its strategic proposal and the Centre for Excellence designation.

The ten-member committee consists of local and state political leaders. They will be responsible for distributing the oil spill fine money given to AL by British oil major BP Plc in connection with the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The council recently made a public presentation about its strategic plan, indicating the purpose of the council. The map explains the inner process that the council is going to develop for choosing and evaluating projects, and engaging citizens. The council wants the process to be fair and transparent.

“As of now we should not even be discussing the projects. We must be focused mainly on making this process as transparent and fair as possible,” said Jimmy Lyons, the Vice-Chairman of the council.

Additionally, the council named Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL) as its Centre for Excellence. The lab will offer grants from 2.5% of the federal RESTORE trust fund.

The Centre will focus mainly on technology, science, and observing one or more of these disciplines: deltaic & coastal sustainability, restoration & protection, such as solutions & technology which allows people to live in a sustainable and safe way in a Gulf Coast delta.

Following are the members of the council: Recovery Council Chairperson and Governor Robert Bentley, Director Jimmy Lyons, Mobile Commissioner Merceria Ludgood, Baldwin Commissioner Tucker Dorsey, Mayor of Dauphin Island Jeff Collier, Mobile County Mayor Sam Jones, Mayor of Gulf Shores Robert Craft, Mayor of Fairhope Tim Kant, Bayou Mayor La Batre, and Mayor of Orange Beach Tony Kennon.

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Ex-BP Engineer Files Motion Seeking Sanctions against Federal Prosecutors

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With his court trial away just a month, a former engineer of BP Plc is renewing the claims that the charges of obstructing justice shouldn’t have ever been brought against him for his actions following the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and if the federal prosecutors go forward they should follow the correct way.

Joan McPhee, the attorney representing Kurt Mix, wrote in his powerfully worded filing that there would be significant risk of wrongful conviction if prosecutors are not ordered by the court to turn over the materials she believe could free her client. The defense does not have access to the materials McPhee mentions as they are withheld.

Additionally, McPhee is asking for sanction against the prosecutors. There will be a hearing on her request on Tuesday in the United States District Court in New Orleans. Mix, a Katy (TX) resident, had pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. His trial has been scheduled for 10th June.

“My client has been charged with a number of serious crimes. His liberty, reputation, right for voting, and even future are at stake. It is obvious that my client’s been denied the fair and due procedure to which he’s constitutionally entitled – even without the benefit of further disclosure of any exculpatory materials requested herein,” McPhee said.

The federal government blamed the “gamesmanship” of the defense in its recent response to the court filing:

“The defendant is jumping right to a move asking for serious sanctions – which include not only the rejection of the charges, but an independent probe of the federal government as well,” government officials said.

According to the federal prosecutors, there are more than 37 m documents in different criminal and civil databases of the Department of Justice and, therefore, it could take 4 to 5 months for having them produced. The prosecutors suggested they are ready to provide the defense with every document they’ve if the federal court asks them to do so.

However, such a court ruling could eventually extend the trial, depending on the time that the prosecutors claim they would require to produce all the files.

“As there’s no basis for finding misconduct, the sanctions motion filed by the defendant should be dismissed,” prosecutors argue.

Mix has been accused of removing voicemails and text messages regarding the quantity of crude oil that was leaking from BP Plc’s Macondo oil well following its blowout off the Louisiana Coast in April 2010.

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Colby Students Group Mark Deepwater Horizon Spill Anniversary

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Waterville, (Kennebec County, Maine) – A team of students from Colby College performed a demonstration on Thursday marking the 3rd anniversary of devastating Deepwater Horizon spill disaster.

12 members of the C.A.R.E (Colby Alliance for Renewable Energy) took part. 5 of them were in hazmat wears while carrying out cleanup of the mock oil spill that they simulated on Averill Lawn on Colby campus. The team rescued doll toy sea turtles and pelicans from a dark canvas which represented the oil spill disaster and stretched into the blue tarp which represented the ocean.

The team members who put on the hazmat suit said they wore them for demonstrating that spills are dangerous and can contaminate the ocean.

BP-operated Deepwater Horizon drilling platform in the Gulf (GoM) blasted on 20th April, 2010, taking the lives of 11 workers and spewing massive quantities of crude into the area. The spill continued for 87 days until the wellhead was capped by the oil company. The oil company finally admitted guilty to the criminal charges linked to the rig blast. The British energy giant agreed to pay nearly $4.5 billion for settling the criminal charges. This was the largest criminal penalty ever in the history of United States.

According to the students, their aim was to boost the awareness of issues connected with offshore oil drilling. They also wished to encourage the public signing a petition that requests the Barack Obama administration to end the oil & gas industry’s testing with seismic airguns to find oil & gas off the shoreline. The students say such testing would injure and potentially kill nearly 138500 dolphins and whales.

Testing with seismic airguns is the primary step towards offshore oil drilling. It involves shooting explosions of the compressed air into the seawater for getting seismic info regarding potential oil that is buried underneath the sea floor. Conservational groups say such blasts can kill eggs of fish, disrupt dolphins and whales that use sound for finding food, and could result in whales deliberating beaching themselves.

Bailey McMillan, an 18-year-old Colby student, said that the Oceana conservational group contacted Colby Alliance to be a student group for conducting demonstrations. She said the materials for their skit were provided by the Oceana group.

According to McMillan, the student group is also attempting to promote their support for offshore wind renewable energy.

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BP’s Expense for Early Restoration Projects Reaches $665M

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British energy giant BP Plc says the sum of money the company has to spend on the early restoration projects in the Gulf for repairing the environmental damaged resulted by the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill disaster has reached $665 m now – more than 50 percent of the $1 bn the oil company committed to spend 2 years ago.

The London-based oil company said on Friday that the company and the state and federal officials have entered a contract on 28 more proposed restoration projects in the GoM which are estimated to cost nearly $594 m. The total amount for new restoration projects had reached about $340 m early this week. The company had agreed to pay for 10 projects previously, accounting for the remaining funds to be used.

BP says the new restoration projects will be carried out across Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. Some of the projects involve the restoration of seagrass and dune habitats, in addition to barrier islands which protect the coastal regions from waves, currents and tides.

BP Plc and the program’s trustees should agree on possible projects and funding, as well as the benefits that the projects are believed to provide to the natural resources.

Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) process is one of the several liabilities of BP in connection with the largest offshore crude oil spill disaster in the history of United States. The process is a part of finding the full effects of the catastrophe on the GoM and how to recover from the situation.

BP Plc was the owner of the Macondo drilling well which blew out in 2010 April off the coast of Louisiana. The blowout triggered a deadly blast which took the lives of 11 rig workers. It also released more than 200 million gal of crude oil into the Gulf, contaminating the shorelines of 5 states along the Gulf of Mexico.

Nearly $10.7 m in the Deepwater Horizon spill restoration funds would be used for the improvements at the Galveston Island State Park, according to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. The department said this on Thursday.

The amount will be used for building campsites, bridges over sand dunes to the beach and an equestrian trail head, in addition to other enhancements on the park.

Nearly $2 m in restoration funds will be spent for improving a reef in the Brazoria County.

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