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BP to Pay $7.8 Billion to Settle Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Lawsuit -- Is the Company Getting Off Too Easy?

Critics argue the settlement allows BP to avoid going to court, where more than 72 million pages of documents and hundreds of witnesses could reveal damning evidence.

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What’s still yet to be negotiated are the state charges against BP—and all the companies involved in the disaster—and the federal government charges. And it’s in those charges that we will hopefully get, in a trial, the discussion of who’s at blame, to what extent are they to blame, and will there or will there not be punitive damages. That’s when we’re going to hopefully uncover those 72 million pages of investigation that will include wrongdoing not just by BP, not just by Transocean, not just by Halliburton, but every major oil company involved in the offshore—and, very likely, at least based on my research, wrongdoing by the Obama administration. It’s the desire to keep that out of the public that has pushed this settlement process forward. It’s pushing BP to the table, when, for example, Exxon refused—excuse me, refused to come to the table for settlement negotiations after the Valdez disaster.

The other thing that’s making this different than Valdez is that after the Exxon Valdez disaster, unlike in this disaster, the U.S. Congress actually took action, and it passed the Oil Pollution Act, which has put in place a lot of very important things that have made this deal different, which is, BP has to pay compensation to claimants. It doesn’t have a choice. BP has to pay for the oil that it spills, under the Clean Water Act. It has to face this very large bill, as long as we apply that act. And that wasn’t in place when the Exxon Valdez disaster was winding its way through 20 years of court. So, I would say the bottom line is we need to continue to focus on the deal that’s on the table and push for, as the process moves forward, that all of that critical information that we want to see gets out in the trial, or if it doesn’t get out in a trial, that a settlement deal requires that it still comes out to the public.

AMY GOODMAN: Greg Palast?

GREG PALAST: I think a settlement is horrific, because it includes no provision that was expected for punitive damages. We’re not getting the information. When I did the investigation with Rick Rowley, we went to the Caspian Sea, for example, and found out that there was a prior blowout, Amy, that there was a prior blowout at a BP rig, Transocean rig, for the same exact reason as the Gulf: that is, cheap, crap cement that they use. That blowout was covered up by BP—by the way, with the connivance of the U.S. State Department, we found out from the Manning WikiLeaks cable. That information hasn’t come out. BP used a method that they knew could kill those 11 men, but it saved them hundreds of millions of dollars, so they continued to use it. That’s the type of information we need from the trial. And there should have been, and it was completely expected that there would be, a provision for punishment, for punitive damages. But what BP was able to pull off here was, effectively, massively increasing the fee to the lawyers, but there was not one single dollar added to the fund that Obama had already forced on BP, not one dollar added to the $20 billion. The same exact terms, and yet there is no trial.

The public is being shorted of the information that proves that this was not an accident, but negligent homicide. They knew from the Baku blowout, which they covered up, that this could happen again. They knew, for example, BP lied about containment. In other words, BP said under oath, six months before the blowout, that it would have all this equipment in place in case there was a blowout. None of it was there. It should have been there in five hours. It wasn’t there for five days, and only when Obama ordered the Navy to act under national emergency. And by the way, I worked on the Exxon Valdez case. BP was in charge of the containment to the Exxon case. Same exact thing. They lied about their ability to contain a spill. They didn’t have the equipment in Alaska 20 years earlier. They got away with it. They didn’t have the equipment in the Gulf. They’re getting away with it again. Without punitive damages, without a trial, they’re basically being told, well, you know, put—if you’re like a bank robber, you put the money back in the vault, and everything’s forgiven. The same game will continue. They’ve saved billions. And this is a very bad deal for the public and for the plaintiffs.

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