United States v. BP: What's next?

There was a partial settlement last week in the case against BP and others arising from the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout in April, 2010.  The settlement was between BP and the class of business owners and others who were injured economically or physically by the blowout or the subsequent cleanup.  Apparently there is no written settlement agreement yet, but you can read an outline of the terms from BP’s standpoint here

My take on what happened is that the funds remaining in the settlement fund that Kenneth Feinberg has been administering will be repurposed to pay damages proved up by members of the plaintiffs’ class, with no new money contributed by BP.  Here is part of BP’s description: 

The proposed settlement is comprised of two separate agreements, one to resolve economic loss claims and another to resolve medical claims. Each proposed agreement provides that class members would be compensated for their claims on a claims-made basis, according to agreed compensation protocols in separate court-supervised claims processes. The proposed agreement to resolve economic loss claims includes the financial commitment for the Gulf seafood industry and a fund to support continued advertising that promotes Gulf Coast tourism . . . The proposed economic loss settlement provides for a transition from the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) administered by Kenneth Feinberg.

What is left unresolved by this settlement is the U.S. and Gulf states’ suit against BP and the other defendants.  I’ve written about parameters for a potential settlement of the claims in that part of the lawsuit here.  In the mean time, the feds and Gulf states have settled with one of the minor players, MOEX; you can read a copy of their settlement agreement here

What is particularly interesting about the MOEX settlement is that it funds certain land acquisition projects in 4 of the 5 Gulf states, and specifically carves out from the settlement any funds for which MOEX may be liable under the ongoing natural resource damages assessment process (see my blog about that process here).  What that means is that MOEX is still on the hook for many millions of dollars in cleanup and restoration costs.  This point is critical and in the best interests of Gulf residents and the damaged ecology, should be applied whether the federal and states’ case against BP reaches settlement or not.