| NEW ORLEANS
NEW ORLEANS Nov 16 Gulf Coast residents
expressed two main emotions the day after BP Plc. agreed
to pay $4.5 billion and plead guilty to criminal misconduct
stemming from the disastrous 2010 oil spill: relief that BP was
being held accountable, and anger that it took more than two
years to happen.
"It was criminal what they did, and 11 people died, so BP
needs to be held accountable," said Acy Cooper, a commercial
fishering boat captain in Venice, La., a jumping-off point for
offshore oil workers and fishermen headed out into the Gulf of
London-based oil major BP on Thursday agreed to pay $4.5
billion in penalties and plead guilty to criminal misconduct in
the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which caused the worst U.S.
offshore oil spill ever and killed 11 rig workers.
The government also indicted the two highest-ranking BP
supervisors aboard the Deepwater Horizon during the April 2010
disaster on 23 counts including manslaughter, and charged
another former BP official with low-balling oil spill estimates
the company provided to U.S. officials.
More than two years after BP's Macondo well fouled
shorelines from Texas to Florida, eclipsing in severity the 1989
Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, large portions of the offshore
grounds that Cooper has plied for nearly 40 years are still
closed, and he still sees evidence of the spill.
"Every time you go out there you start stirring it up, and
you've got an oil sheen behind the boat," Cooper said.
BP's deal with the Justice Department requires it to pay
$2.4 billion into a fund that will be used to restore the Gulf
Coast's oil-damaged barrier islands, marshlands and other
Garret Graves, senior environmental advisor to Louisiana
Gov. Bobby Jindal, said the deal marks long-needed progress.
"After 2 and a half years, we finally have gotten to a point
where BP is going to be required to spend more money on
restoration," Graves said. "It's pretty clear the Department of
Justice is aggressively pursuing the best interest of the Gulf
After Thursday's plea deal, BP still faces billions of
dollars in additional liabilities from civil penalties under the
Clean Water Act, which could be the subject of a civil court
case now slated to get under way in New Orleans in February.
"This is a drop in the bucket compared to the remaining
liabilities we have to do on the Clean Water Act," Graves said.
Despite laudatory language by US officials, some local
officials accused Uncle Sam of cutting BP a sweetheart deal.
"With the arrogance of BP, $4.5 billion is no where near
enough," said Tony Kennon, mayor of Orange Beach, Alabama,
saying the spill shook his city's tourism-centered economy to
the core. "The Justice Department took the easy way out. It was
a brother-in-law deal."
For John Fitzgerald, President of Saunders Yachtworks, Inc.
a family-owned boat repair company in Orange Beach, Ala., the
sting of the oil spill has passed, thanks in part to a legal
settlement he received from BP.
"I am not as focused on it as I was when my business and
livelihood was on the line," Fitzgerald said. "Our business was
good last year and we are looking forward to a bright future. We
are almost finished with a new facility in Gulf Shores."
For others that did not receive a settlement, like Vickie
Connolly, owner of the Pelican Pub on Dauphin Island, Ala., the
future is decidedly less bright.
"I think it is just a money grab," Connolly said. "They will
just put it into their stupid programs. I don't like seeing
people spending other people's money, especially money they
don't have to spend."