Deepwater Horizon

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John Cruden served with U.S. Special Forces in Vietnam, taking his law school aptitude test in Saigon and eventually becoming a government lawyer.

Earlier this month, he started a new job running the environment and natural resources division at the Justice Department. For Cruden, 68, the new role means coming home to a place where he worked as a career lawyer for about 20 years.

Cruden has been around long enough to have supervised the Exxon Valdeez spill case, a record-setter. That is, until the Deepwater Horizon exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition

What to do with all the billions in Clean Water Act fines to be paid by BP and its contractors for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill?

Officially, it’s up to the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, made up of governors from the five affected states and heads of several federal agencies, to decide.

A coalition of environmental groups has come up with their own ideas for how the first millions can best be spent to restore the coast.

Oil giant BP has suffered a legal setback in its effort to limit how much the company will pay under a 2012 settlement with thousands of individuals and businesses along the Gulf Coast. Without comment, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected BP's request that it review previous lower court decisions that favored plaintiffs.

Money is flowing now to Gulf Coast states to remedy damage from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and subsequent spill. All kinds of projects are underway, from building boat ramps to shoring-up marshland.

They're being paid for with a $1 billion down payment BP made toward its ultimate responsibility to make the Gulf Coast whole, a figure estimated to be up to $18 billion.

Platform supply vessels battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon, April, 20, 2010.
U.S. Coast Guard

BP was to blame — that was U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier’s ruling a week ago in the case over the Macondo well disaster. The judge found Transocean, which was operating the Deepwater Horizon rig in 2010, and cement contractor Haliburton at fault too. But Barbier said BP was guilty of “gross negligence”. And that could mean that payouts by BP balloon to $50 billion or more ultimately.

Dr. Jim Richardson, professor of public administration and economics at LSU explains some of the business implications.

Under a legal settlement, BP has been sending money to businesses affected by the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill. The company said the terms of the settlement are being misinterpreted. The court disagreed.

BP is asking the US Supreme Court for relief from a damage claim process enacted after the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil company has lost several court battles to modify the deal.

This story has been updated with a response from BP.

As the four-year anniversary of the BP oil spill approaches, a leading environmental group is warning that the event is far from over. Increased deaths of dolphins, sea turtles and other injured species are signs of continuing contamination.

Eleven died and hundreds of millions of gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico when BP's Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in 2010. But beneath the tragedy, there's a complex story about people's relationships to oil. That's what's explored in Spill, a new play by one of the creators of The Laramie Project.