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What Halliburton's $1.1 Billion Spill Settlement Means for BP

Oil from the Macondo spill at Louisiana's Grand Terre Island in June 2010
Oil from the Macondo spill at Louisiana's Grand Terre Island in June 2010Photograph by Benjamin Lowy/Getty Images

Halliburton has wrapped up most of its lingering liability for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill with a $1.1 billion settlement announced on Tuesday. The pact will resolve accusations that Halliburton’s cement work on the ill-fated Macondo well contributed to a disaster that killed 11 rig workers and spewed millions of barrels of crude into the gulf. It also offers important hints about where the four-year-old litigation storm centered on New Orleans is headed from here.

First off, the timing of the settlement announcement may signal that U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier is nearing a decision on the Big Question of how to apportion overall blame for the spill—and, more specifically, what kind of additional legal bill faces BP as the main operator of the well. The British company has already paid out more than $28 billion and faces additional liability that could total an additional tens of billions. How much more is the issue before Barbier.