MOBILE (AP) — Leaders and activists on the Alabama coast were pleased that BP will pay billions in criminal penalties for the 2010 Gulf oil spill under an agreement announced Thursday, but they said civil payments would be the real key to resolving damages from the environmental disaster.
Casi Callaway, an environmental activist and executive director of Mobile Baykeeper, said she “absolutely believes” BP should be held criminally liable for the spill.
“They set up a system that did not have the safeguards in place to protect people or the environment,” Callaway said. “They operated a system to make the most money possible without regard to regulations or safety, and they should have to pay criminally.”
BP said it would pay $4.5 billion in what officials called the largest criminal settlement in U.S. history. The agreement includes almost $1.3 billion in criminal fines and payments of nearly $2.4 billion to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, $350 million to the National Academy of Sciences and about $500 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Callaway, who helped organize volunteer cleanups and monitoring during the spill, said the health of the coastline “is still undetermined” even though visitors have returned to hotels and restaurants and beach towns are again thriving from tourism. The company should be forced to pay more through lawsuits and civil settlements, she said.
“We still have oil washing in somewhere on the Alabama coast every day,” she said.
Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft said he is glad BP will face criminal penalties but he is far more interested in civil penalties and whether fine money eventually reaches the states and local communities that suffered because of the spill.
“Those are the things that will affect us most in the settlement deal,” said Craft. “I don’t know how the criminal settlement affects us. I’m trying to get my arms around this and find out where the money is going.”
Attorney General Luther Strange, who is helping coordinate litigation involving states that were affected by the spill, said he would “continue devoting my time to holding BP and the other responsible parties accountable for their acts, and I look forward to presenting Alabama’s case that BP was grossly negligent when we have our day in court.”
The spill left miles of Alabama’s coast coated with crude oil and tar balls.
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