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BP's Big Payouts Amid Other Oil Spill Liability

Offshore oil platforms under construction in Port Fourchon, La., in 2010

Photograph by Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Offshore oil platforms under construction in Port Fourchon, La., in 2010


April 16

A BP manager overrules an engineer’s decision to use 21 centralizers to secure a drill pipe in the Macondo well; only six are installed.

April 20

BP decides not to run a test that would determine whether cement has properly sealed the well against leaks. That evening, the well erupts. Eleven men die as the Deepwater Horizon rig explodes and catches fire.

June 16

BP agrees voluntarily to put $20 billion into a fund to pay damages under the supervision of settlement expert Kenneth Feinberg.

July 15

BP and the Coast Guard cap the blown-out well, stopping a geyser of oil that spewed more than 4 million barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico.

Aug. 10

A panel of federal judges consolidates hundreds of claims tied to the disaster before U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans.

Dec. 15

The U.S. Justice Department sues BP, rig operator Transocean, and cement contractor Halliburton for violating environmental laws.


Jan. 13

The family of Karl Kleppinger reaches the first settlement of a worker-death suit against Transocean.

April 20

BP sues Transocean and Halliburton, claiming that the contractors share responsibility for the Gulf spill.

Nov. 14

Judge Barbier rules that BP must face spill claims filed by Louisiana and Alabama. Eventually Florida, Mississippi, and Texas also sue BP.


Jan. 26

Barbier rules that under its contract with Transocean, BP must “indemnify” the contractor for pollution-related economic claims. A few days later, the judge decides that BP has to cover certain claims against Halliburton as well.

Feb. 26

Barbier delays a civil trial to allow BP and the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee to continue negotiating a potential settlement of private business claims.

March 2

BP and the plaintiffs announce an estimated $7.8 billion settlement to resolve most private claims for property damage, economic loss, and medical injuries.


Hurricane Isaac hits the Gulf Coast and reveals continuing oil contamination in coastal waters.

Nov. 15

BP agrees to plead guilty to 12 felony counts and pay $4 billion in criminal fines; the company also agrees to pay an additional $525 million related to securities-law violations.


Jan. 3

Transocean agrees to pay more than $1.4 billion, including a $400 million criminal fine, to settle federal criminal and civil allegations.

Feb. 5

BP increases the estimated cost of its economic-claims settlement by $680 million to $8.5 billion.

March 5

Barbier rejects BP’s challenge to how court-appointed administrator Patrick Juneau is paying business claims. That issue is now before a federal appeals court in New Orleans.

June 1

BP to date has paid out about $25 billion to cover cleanup and damage claims. The company has set aside more than $40 billion for spill liability. The Justice Department is still seeking up to $17.5 billion while the state of Louisiana estimates that BP ultimately will pay “tens of billions” of dollars in additional claims.

Barrett is an assistant managing editor and senior writer at Bloomberg Businessweek. His new book, Law of the Jungle, tells the story of the Chevron oil pollution case in Ecuador.

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