NEW ORLEANS- A federal judge in New Orleans has granted final approval to an estimated $20 billion settlement, resolvingyears of litigation over the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier's final order on the settlement was released Monday.
The settlement, first announced in July, 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.
Barbier had set the stage for the settlement with an earlier ruling that BP had been "grossly negligent" in the offshore rig explosion that killed 11 workers and caused a 134 million-gallon spill.
The ruling binds the company to a massive cleanup project in the Gulf Coast area aimed at restoring wildlife, habitat and water quality, as many consider the fallout from the spill one of the worst man-made disasters ever.
Oil from the spill was deposited onto at least 400 square miles of the sea floor and washed up onto more than 1,300 miles of shoreline from Texas to Florida. The oil was toxic to fish, birds, plankton, turtles and mammals, causing death and disease and making it difficult for animals to reproduce.
"BP is receiving the punishment it deserves, while also providing critical compensation for the injuries that it caused to the environment and the economy of the Gulf region," Attorney General Loretta Lynch has said about the settlement previously.