By Loren Steffy and Emily Pickrell
BP has reached a tentative settlement with businesses and individuals harmed by the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, officials said Friday night, delaying a trial that had been set for Monday but still leaving many legal issues unresolved.
In a statement, BP estimated that the proposed settlement would be for about $7.8 billion and would comprise two separate agreements, one to resolve economic loss claims — including $2.3 billion toward claims related to the Gulf seafood industry — and another to resolve medical claims.
The settlement negotiated by BP and an umbrella Plaintiffs Steering Committee will be paid from a $20 billion claim fund that BP set up after the disaster, the company said. The fund, established in the summer of 2010 to pay for claims by businesses hurt by the spill, already has paid out roughly $6 billion.
“The proposed settlement represents significant progress toward resolving issues from the Deepwater Horizon accident and contributing further to economic and environmental restoration efforts along the Gulf Coast,” BP CEO Bob Dudley said in the statement.
BP and others involved in the accident still face civil claims from federal and state governments related to possible violation of pollution laws, and the Department of Justice is conducting a criminal investigation. Other corporate defendants — including Transocean and Halliburton — apparently have not settled with the business and individual plaintiffs.
Any deal requires the approval of U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier of New Orleans, who was set to begin a nonjury trial Monday on litigation combining civil complaints by individuals, companies and governments, and cross-claims among defendants.
In a brief order, Barbier postponed that trial indefinitely. He said the settlement will “require substantial changes to the current . . . trial plan” and that remaining parties in the case will need time to “reassess their respective positions.”
Barbier had planned to sort through scores of legal issues in the trial, the first phase of which was to apportion blame among parties.
BP’s Macondo well blew out in the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana on April 20, 2010. Exploding oil and gas from the well destroyed the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, killing 11 workers, and the well poured an estimated 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf before it was capped almost three months later.
Friday night’s agreement caps a week of on-again, off-again discussion between BP’s lawyers and those representing thousands of claimants. Barbier last weekend delayed the start of the trial a week to allow both sides a chance to reach an agreement.
Transocean, which owned and operated the Deepwater Horizon but contends BP made key decisions leading up to the disaster, issued a statement saying the settlement didn’t change its positions.
“Delays or deals made by other players do not change the facts of this case, and we are fully prepared to argue the merits of our case based on those facts,” it said.
Halliburton, which cemented the well, had no immediate reaction.
Investigations concluded that multiple decisions, including design of the well, the way it was cemented and interpretation of pressure tests, all may have contributed to the blowout.
Wyn Hornbuckle, a Justice Department spokesman, issued a statement saying the government hopes the resolution of the private plaintiffs’ lawsuit “will provide swift and sure compensation to those harmed by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”
As to outstanding federal claims, he said, “although we remain open to a fair and just settlement, we are fully prepared to try the case.”
Several companies already have reached partial or complete settlements.
Weatherford International, which provided the float collar used in the final cementing of the well, settled with BP last year in exchange for protection against any compensatory claims, such as harm to the local economy. Barbier then dismissed its case as to any remaining claims.
MOEX Offshore 2007, a unit of Japan’s Mitsui that owned 10 percent of the Macondo well, settled with BP and with federal and state governments.
Anadarko Petroleum Corp., which owned a 25 percent share, settled with BP for compensatory claims, but still could be liable for civil penalties under the Clean Water and Oil Pollution acts.
BP reached a similar settlement with Cameron, which built the blowout preventer that sat on top of the Macondo wellhead and failed as the last line of defense against loss of well control.
Vessels monitor a oil burn in the area of the Deepwater Horizon disaster on the Gulf of Mexico, Tuesday, July 13, 2010. BP officials have placed a containment cap over the leak in hopes that the flow of oil will be diminished. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
President Barack Obama makes a statement after being briefed on the BP oil spill relief efforts in the Gulf Coast region, Friday, June 4, 2010, at Louis Armstrong International New Orleans Airport in Kenner, La. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Protesters gather outside of the BP offices in San Francisco on Wednesday, May 12, 2010 to demonstrate against the Gulf oil rig disaster. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
This image from video provided by BP PLC early Sunday morning, June 13, 2010 shows oil continuing to pour out at the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. The Coast Guard has demanded that BP step up its efforts to contain the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico by the end of the weekend, telling the British oil giant that its slow pace in stopping the spill is becoming increasingly alarming as the disaster fouled the coastline in ugly new ways Saturday. (AP Photo/BP PLC) NO SALES
This image from video provided by BP PLC early Sunday morning, June 20, 2010 shows oil continuing to gush millions of gallons a day, from the broken wellhead, at the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. (AP Photo/BP PLC) NO SALES
GULF SHORES, AL - JUNE 08: Workers pick up oil patches and tar that washed up on the beach at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on June 8, 2010 in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Early reports indicate that BP's latest plan to stem the flow of oil from the site of the Deepwater Horizon incident may be having some success. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Oil floats in the Gulf of Mexico near Orange Beach, Alabama, U.S., on Friday, June 18, 2010. The BP Plc oil spill, which began when the leased Transocean Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20, is gushing as much as 60,000 barrels of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico, the government said. Photographer: Kari Goodnough/Bloomberg
Oil cleanup workers hired by BP pick up oil on the beach in Gulf Shores, Ala., Friday, July 2, 2010. Oil from the Deepwater Horizon incident is expected to come ashore over the July 4th weekend. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
In this image taken from video provided by BP PLC at 18:17 CDT, a new containment cap, top, is lowered over the broken wellhead at the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Monday, July 12, 2010. Deep-sea robots swarmed around BP's ruptured oil well Monday in a delicately choreographed effort to attach the tighter-fitting cap that could finally stop crude from gushing into the Gulf of Mexico nearly three months into the crisis. (AP Photo/BP PLC) NO SALES
This combo made from images taken from video provided by BP PLC shows oil flowing from two of three valves on the new 75-ton cap atop the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico at 17:04 CDT Wednesday, July 14, 2010, left, and the top of the cap at 17:56 CDT on Thursday, July 15, minutes after the flow of oil was choked off. BP vice president Kent Wells said the oil stopped flowing into the water at 14:25 CDT after engineers gradually dialed back the amount of crude escaping through the last of three vents in the cap, an 18-foot-high metal stack of pipes and valves.(AP Photo/BP PLC) NO SALES
The view from an approaching helicopter shows the armada of drillships and other vessels surrounding the site of the blown out BP well in the Gulf of Mexico about 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana. Credit Brett Clanton / Chronicle
Oil gushes from a valve atop the failed blowout preventer (BOP) at the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill site in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana, U.S., in an image captured by the Skandi remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) camera at 7:35 a.m. Central Standard Time (CST) on Tuesday, July 13, 2010. BP Plc installed a new cap on its leaking Gulf of Mexico oil well and will start testing today whether this will stop the gusher while work continues on a permanent plug. Source: BP Plc via Bloomberg
EDITOR'S NOTE: EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO SALES.
GULF OF MEXICO, LA - JULY 27: (EDITORS NOTE: Distortion caused by heat.) Ships assist in clean up and containment near the source of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill July 27, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. Work continues to put a permanent plug on the well which has leaked an estimated three to five million barrels of oil. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Hairdresser Karen Jackson wears a t-shirt that reads "We've been BPeed on!" on the front of the shirt and "Gulf Oil Disaster 2010-??" on the back Saturday, July 3, 2010, in Orange Beach, Ala. Jackson says she is worried about the effect the spill is having on her community and what will happen if local business continues to falter. "I would hate to have to leave this place. We love it here." She said her business is way off what it should be for the season, "down here we make all of our money in the summer," she says. Her husband's work as an electrician has dried up she says, so he has signed on to work cleanup for BP. ( Smiley N. Pool / Houston Chronicle )
A driver rolls down the highway with messages such as "$ave the Gulf Coa$t" and "Tony Hayward C.E. O of B.P. Give us out Live Back" while driving Sunday, June 27, 2010, in Pensacola, Florida. ( Smiley N. Pool / Houston Chronicle )
This still image from a live BP video feed shows a view from a submersible while checking the integrity of the well head on August 3, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico. BP prepared Tuesday to plug the worst oil leak in history, although the Gulf of Mexico region will be counting the environmental and economic costs for years, perhaps decades, to come. Already delayed by a week due to Tropical Storm Bonnie, the long-awaited "static kill" was put off again at the last-minute when a leak was discovered on Monday in the cap that has been sealing the runaway well since July 15. US spill chief Thad Allen said the leak had been stopped overnight and that the operation to ram in heavy drilling fluids, known as mud, would commence as soon as "injectivity tests" had given the procedure the all-clear. AFP PHOTO / BP == RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE / NO SALES / NO MARKETING / NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN == (Photo credit should read HO/AFP/Getty Images)(Photo Credit should Read /AFP/Getty Images)
In this image taken from video provided by BP PLC at 12:23 a.m. EDT, Saturday Sept. 4, 2010 Aug. 3, 2010 shows the blowout preventer that failed to stop oil from spewing into the Gulf of Mexico being raised to the surface. The blowout preventer wasn't expected to reach the surface until Saturday, at which point government investigators will take possession of it. (AP Photo/BP PLC) NO SALES
DAUPHIN ISLAND, AL. | JULY 4, 2010 : A cleanup worker, wearing a protective coverall and carrying a small scoop, punctuates an otherwise typical holiday beach scene as patrols the beach looking for tar balls on Independence Day. While exact numbers are elusive, tourist business along the Gulf Coast all reported feeling the sting of lost income from a noticeable dip in tourism this summer following the Deepwater Horizon spill.
GULF OF MEXICO | JUNE 26, 2010 : Streaks of oil are seen on the surface of the water near the site of the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The amount of oil spilled, and what happened to the oil remains in debate, but in August, the Department of Energy and United States Geological Survey announced, that it estimated a total of 4.9 million barrels of oil had been released from the BP Deepwater Horizon well.
GRAND ISLE, LA. | JULY 15, 2010 : Oil containment boom floats just off the pier as fishermen cast lines near the bridge leading to the island after sun sets on the first full day of fishing after a ban on sport fishing was lifted. Commercial fishing remained closed, but happy recreational fishermen flocked to the water on a beautiful evening. Most were BP contractors working on the cleanup. One was Bobby Walker of Houma, La., who said he had been coming to the island to fish for over 30 years and praised the great fishing and natural beauty of the island. "But who would have ever thought I would be here all summer working on the oil spill."