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The three companies with official responsibility for the 2010 Gulf of Mexico disaster have reached settlements with individuals, businesses and with one another for the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
Transocean Ltd., which owned the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig, settled for $211.7 million with victims of the spill on May 20. At the same time, BP, which leased the rig, settled with Transocean and Halliburton, the rig’s cement contractor.
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The Deepwater Horizon, which was drilling at BP’s Macondo well, off the coast of Louisiana, exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers. As a result, oil gushed into the Gulf until the well was finally capped on July 5.
Transocean’s beneficiaries, represented by the Plaintiffs Steering Committee, include two classes of individuals and businesses. One involves those who already have settled with BP. The other involves those who for a variety of reasons have not settled with BP yet. In September, Halliburton reached a similar settlement with plaintiffs at a cost of $1.1 billion.
“We applaud Transocean for adding to the settlement funds established in the Halliburton settlement to help compensate people and businesses for their losses,” Stephen J. Herman and James P. Roy, co-lead plaintiffs’ attorneys, said in a statement.
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At the same time, all three companies agreed to drop all outstanding legal claims among one another, and BP will pay Transocean $125 million for the legal fees the rig’s owner has incurred. Geoff Morrell, BP’s vice president, issued a statement expressing satisfaction at the resolution. “We have now settled all matters relating to the accident with both our partners in the well and our contractors.”
While these settlements were playing out, researchers at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that lesions found in the lungs and adrenal glands of bottlenose dolphins in the Gulf are consistent with damage caused by exposure to petroleum products.
In their report, published May 20 in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, the researchers said they studied tissues from 46 dolphins that had recently died along the coasts of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi between June 2010 and December 2012. These samples were compared with those from 106 dolphins that had died at different times and different locations ranging from North Carolina to Texas.
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The dolphins that died in the area affected by the Deepwater Horizon spill had more cases of the adrenal and lung lesions than did the other dolphins, the article said, and fully one-third of the Gulf Coast dolphins suffered from damaged adrenal glands, compared with only 7 percent of the other dolphins.
Such damage limits dolphins’ ability to produce essential hormones and can eventually kill them, the author of the report, Kathleen Colegrove, a veterinary pathologist at the University of Illinois, told The New York Times.
NOAA’s study also found that about one-fifth of Gulf Coast dolphins suffered from lung lesions caused by bacterial pneumonia, and of them, 70 percent died. The research concluded that the dolphins probably inhaled fumes from oil and its byproducts floating on the surface of the gulf.
BP issued a statement countering the NOAA study, saying there is no evidence “that oil from the Deepwater Horizon accident caused an increase in dolphin mortality.”
By Andy Tully Of Oilprice.com
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Andy Tully is a veteran news reporter who is now the news editor for Oilprice.com