Judge Sally Shushan of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana [official website] on Wednesday ordered British Petroleum (BP) [corporate website] to pay the third quarter and some fourth quarter expenses for the gulf oil spill claim administration program [official website website]. The budget and fees for the program totaled over $130 million. This order comes as the FBI esearches allegations by BP that the disbursement process has been corrupted. Although Shushan acknowledged that BP raised legitimate concerns about claims administrators approving false filings for a percentage of the payouts, she concluded that the program could not be halted on short notice based on the allegations alone. Although BP appealed immediately, US District Judge Carl Barbier, who is overseeing the spill litigation, upheld the decision within hours. The claim administration program is expected to continue operations while the court-appointed administrator and several former employees are investigated for fraud [FBI summary].
The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill [JURIST news archive] in the Gulf of Mexico is one of the largest commercial disasters in modern history, and was responsible for the destruction of protected wildlife habitats that are still under reconstruction to this day. Two weeks ago, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced that Halliburton Energy Services [corporate website; JURIST news archive] agreed to plead guilty to destroying evidence [press release] in connection with the spill. In January a judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana accepted a plea agreement [JURIST report] between BP and the DOJ for the company's criminal liability in the spill. Earlier in January Transocean Ltd. [corporate website] pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to "negligently discharging oil into the Gulf of Mexico," in violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA) [EPA summary] and agreed to pay $1 billion in civil penalties and $400 million in criminal penalties for its role in the Deepwater Horizon spill.