The State of Alabama’s landmark Agreement in Principle with BP was a bombshell announcement last month. But as we reported, certain contingencies had to be satisfied in order for the agreement to become a final settlement. One of the most important contingencies that had to be met was that enough local governments had to accept their settlement offers. While BP never revealed exactly how many of those local governments had to participate, it did note that enough had to agree to resolve their cases to the oil giant’s satisfaction.
Having reviewed the number of local governments that agreed to settle their claims based on offers made by the third party neutrals appointed by the court, we can now report that BP has agreed that enough local governments participated for the settlement to move forward. All of our local governmental clients were in that number. This is a critically important step in the process. Considering the complex political challenges that exist when working with any governmental entity to negotiate a settlement – much less hundreds of governmental entities – clearing this contingency was a major step toward the Agreement becoming a final resolution of all governmental claims. In fact, it was an absolute necessity.
With the local government claims now resolved, unless something unforeseen develops, the next step will be the consent decree, which must be entered and approved by the Court in order for the $18.7 billion settlement (including Alabama) to move forward. Consent decrees in any complex pollution or environmental case are usually extremely complicated documents. We realize this consent decree will no doubt fall into that category. The environmental restoration plan, which will be part of the consent decree, will go up for public comment in the coming months, and will be taken under consideration by the parties as part of the approval process.
The good news is that this landmark settlement is now much closer to finality. While a very few persons, who have been pretty vocal, have critiqued the settlement, they don’t appear to have all of the needed facts. Considering our direct involvement in this litigation and the settlement negotiations, starting when the spill occurred, I am convinced that this was a great settlement for all concerned and will become final. If you have any questions about the State of Alabama’s oil spill settlement, or any other questions, contact either Rhon Jones or Parker Miller at 800-898-2034 or by email at Rhon.Jones@beasleyallen.com and Parker.Miller@beasleyallen.com.
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