A federal judge in New Orleans on Monday gave final approval to a historic $20 billion settlement in the years-long legal battle over the 2010 BP oil spill that killed 11 workers and devastated coastal communities in the Gulf of Mexico.
Monday's settlement finalizes an agreement that was announced in July. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier had previously said the fossil fuel giant had played a "grossly negligent" role in the disaster.
According to the Associated Press, the settlement 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."
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The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) estimated that it will cost BP as much as $20.8 billion, while the company says other related expenses, such as cleaning efforts and various other settlements, will exceed $53 billion.
David Uhlmann, a University of Michigan law professor and former chief of the DOJ's environmental crimes agency, told the AP that the ruling "ends a long, sad chapter in American environmental history."
"The question that remains is whether we have learned enough from this tragedy to prevent similar environmental disasters in the future," he said.