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July 24, 2014, 6:21 am

BP oil settlement just a beginning

British oil giant BP will pay $4.5 billion in a settlement with the federal government over the 2010 Gulf oil spill disaster and two employees were charged with manslaughter over the 11 workers killed.

The settlement was the “largest total criminal resolution in the history of the United States,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.

Holder said the settlement and indictment aren’t the end of federal authorities’ efforts and that the criminal investigation is continuing.

It is good to know the government’s criminal investigation is continuing, since the $4.5 billion settlement is insufficient compared to the damage caused by BP for the largest oil spill in United States history and for the company’s attempt to engage in a cover-up.

While the total cost of the disaster is still being counted, scientists say the ecosystem could require years to recover.

The explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig killed 11 workers and triggered a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that took 85 days to stop. The government charged top BP officers with manslaughter in connection with each man who died, alleging that BP officials were negligent in supervising tests to seal the well.

The disaster resulted in the spill of an estimated 172 million gallons of crude oil that damaged beaches, killed wildlife and shut down vast areas of the Gulf to commercial fishing.

BP initially tried to cover up the severity of the spill and sought to mislead Congress about how quickly oil was leaking from the well, according to the settlement and related charges.

BP admitted that top officials withheld documents and provided false information in response to a House of Representatives request for information on how quickly oil was flowing. BP’s former vice president for exploration in the Gulf of Mexico repeatedly said publicly that an estimated 5,000 barrels of day were leaking when government and independent scientists later concluded that more than 60,000 barrels of day were leaking into the Gulf during that time.

The company still faces up to $31 billion in potential pollution penalties under the Clean Water Act and Oil Pollution Act. The government should continue to hold BP accountable under the clean water and oil pollution laws.