BP

BP has lost an appeal of how much it has to pay in damages caused by its 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. A split decision by a three-judge panel could restart a payment process that has been on hold while the appeal was pending.

As we near the end of 2013, NPR is taking a look at the numbers that tell the story of this year. They're numbers that, if you really understand them, give insight into the world we live in.

On a breezy December morning, a work crew is scouring the surf line on Grand Isle, La., scooping up tiny tar balls and collecting them in a basket.

Foreman LeRoy Irving keeps track of what the 14-person team has collected in a half-day. "If I had to guess, maybe 10 pounds," he says.

Oil giant BP is challenging hundreds of millions of dollars in claims that were filed by businesses after the company's 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The total price tag for BP's oil spill is huge — $42.5 billion. At issue here is a fraction of that — but still a lot of money. BP says $540 million has been awarded to businesses for losses that "are either nonexistent, exaggerated or have nothing to do with the Deepwater Horizon accident."

The BP oil spill claims agreement is heading back to a courtroom in New Orleans on Monday. The oil company says fraudulent claims are being paid.

In a New Orleans courtroom this week, BP and the federal government are arguing over how much oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010.

Oil flowed from the out-of-control well for nearly three months. Just how much oil spilled will be key in determining the amount BP will have to pay in federal fines and penalties.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block.

BP is fighting the settlement it agreed to last summer that let the oil company avoid thousands of potential lawsuits over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Just after the spill, when oil was still gushing into the Gulf, BP touted the $20 billion it set aside for claims. But now it says the claim process is corrupt and is hoping a court will overturn the settlement that established the claims fund.

Ending the claims would mean stopping a well-oiled machine.

Five states and leaders of several federal agencies have unanimously approved a blueprint to repair the Gulf of Mexico with BP fines pending over the 2010 oil spill. Governor Bobby Jindal’s comments in New Orleans about BP and his support for Mississippi River diversions drew immediate criticism.

Researchers at Tulane University are working on designing a less toxic oil dispersant than the Corexit used on the BP spill in 2010. The goal is using ingredients now approved for human consumption.

Christy Haynes/NPR

Debbie Elliott is NPR’s national correspondent based in Alabama. She has covered the 2010 BP oil spill, and its aftermath, since the beginning.

Reporting in Terrebone Parish in 2010, Elliott met the Chauvin family that had been shrimpers for five generations before the disaster. Now covering the trial over BP’s liability for the spill, Elliott tells WRKF’s Ashley Westerman that family story is one that has stuck with her.

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