US government to continue BP Deepwater Horizon case

Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon, off Louisiana President Obama called the spill "the worst environmental disaster" the US had ever seen

The US government says it will continue its case against BP over the Deepwater Horizon oil rig spill despite a deal the company reached on Friday with the largest group of private claimants.

The $7.8bn (£4.9bn) deal does not address "significant damages" to the environment after the Gulf of Mexico spill, the Department of Justice said.

The company has not admitted liability and still faces other legal claims.

The April 2010 explosion killed 11 workers and leaked 4m barrels of oil.

"While we are pleased that BP may be stepping up to address harms to individual plaintiffs, this by no means fully addresses its responsibility for the harms it has caused," the Department of Justice said.

State governments in the area affected and drilling firms are amongst others expected to continue legal action against BP.

The deal agreed on Friday will benefit some 100,000 fishermen, local residents and clean-up workers whose livelihoods or health suffered.

BP says it expects the money to come from a $20bn (£12.6bn) compensation fund it had previously set aside.

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My very strong sense is that relations between BP and the Department of Justice are not good”

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"From the beginning, BP stepped up to meet our obligations to the communities in the Gulf Coast region, and we've worked hard to deliver on that commitment for nearly two years," BP Chief Executive Bob Dudley said in a statement.

"The proposed settlement represents significant progress toward resolving issues from the Deepwater Horizon accident and contributing further to economic and environmental restoration efforts along the Gulf Coast."

Lawyers for the plaintiffs' group, the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee, said the settlement "does the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people".

Trial adjourned

A trial in the case, due to begin on Monday, will now be delayed - for a second time - as a result of the deal, Judge Carl Barbier said on Friday.

The settlement will "likely result in a realignment of the parties," he said.

The trial is now being adjourned "in order to allow the parties to reassess their respective positions," Judge Barbier said.

Judge Barbier is an expert in maritime law and has consolidated hundreds of spill-related lawsuits into a single case.

The trial will probably still go ahead in order to apportion blame for the spill among BP and its fellow defendants.

Other companies involved include Transocean, who owned the rig, and Halliburton. All the companies are in dispute with each other over their liability to each other.

BP has so far paid out $7.5bn in clean-up costs and compensation.

US President Barack Obama called the spill "the worst environmental disaster the nation has ever faced".

It took 85 days to permanently stop the release of crude oil.

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