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BP To Pay $20 Billion In Settlement Over Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Last Monday, a federal judge in New Orleans gave the final approval for a massive settlement in the aftermath of the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Over a 16-year period, BP will pay out $20 billion for the Deepwater Horizon offshore rig explosion that killed 11 workers, caused a 134 million gallon oil spill, and harmed more than 40,000 miles of sea habitat between Florida and Texas. It stands as the biggest environmental disaster in United States history.


It may have taken six years, but it’s incredible BP is being fined at all when looking at the history of oil company fuck-ups and their subsequent incredibly small penalties. Oil companies receive and maintain an insane amount of money from tax breaks, lack of federal limits on pollution, government subsidies, and more. This is a serious problem, and it’s good to see oil companies finally being held accountable for the damage they do.

The Deepwater Horizon spill's oil slick as seen from space by NASA's Terra satellite on May 24th, 2010.

The settlement includes  $5.5 billion in civil Clean Water Act penalties and billions more to cover environmental damage and other claims by the five Gulf states and local governments. The money is to be paid out over a 16-year period. They are also paying nearly half a billion dollars every year to Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi to restore natural resource damage as part of the ruling.


Oil and gas companies have a shit ton of money. Everybody knows that. Yet the current taxation laws and legal loopholes in place do little to dampen their economic growth or hold them accountable for things as important as oil spills, employee deaths, or the destruction of farm land. Watch John Oliver’s segment on the North Dakota Oil Boom to learn how oil companies manage to escape having to pay the costs of their damages.

John Oliver explains how oil companies in North Dakota have evaded taking responsibility for things like employee deaths and the destruction of farm lands. Video from YouTube.

In addition to receiving incredibly generous tax breaks, the big five oil companies (BP, Exxon, Chevron, Shell, ConocoPhillips) benefit from the lack of federal limits on carbon pollution generated by oil and gas production, transportation, and refining. 

To make it even more unbearable, the US government gives them about  $52 billion annually in subsidies (that’s your tax money), not including additional costs borne by taxpayers related to the climate, local environmental, and health impacts of the fossil fuel industry.


One of the most obvious benefits of ending fossil fuel subsidies and of actually forcing these companies to pay for their destructive track record is increasing the availability of public money. Additionally, ending excessive and wasteful support for fossil fuels would reduce greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global warming. 

For the last several years, President Obama has proposed eliminating $4 billion in oil and gas subsidies from the U.S. budget. While these are not all the subsidies that this very profitable industry enjoys, they are some of the most obvious. But Congress hasn’t yet approved President Obama’s budget cuts.

BP CEO Tony Hayward says "We're Sorry" in this hilarious clip from South Park. 

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