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BP Settlement Should Happen in Public Forum, say Environmentalists

Pelican photographed after the BP oil spill.

TALLAHASSEE, FL - It's a waiting game as BP oil company executives and federal officials meet to discuss the settlement amount the company will have to pay as a result of the Gulf oil spill that leaked an estimated 4.1 million gallons of oil into Gulf waters.  

Rumored settlement figures are between $15 billion and $18 billion, and conservation groups believe the closed-door meetings should be open to the public. At the National Wildlife Federation, John Kostyack, vice president for wildlife conservation, says the settlement estimates don't come close to paying for the damage done.

"The money we hope to recover from BP could be one of the largest environmental restoration funds ever created. We shouldn't be breezing through this lightly. No deal should be struck without having some kind of public debate."

The NWF estimates BP should pay $21 billion in civil penalties under the Clean Water Act and at least another $30 billion in other penalties for violating the Oil Pollution Act, among other laws. 

Kostyack says with BP's estimated $300 billion in assets, the settlement needs to be sufficient to pay for current and future damage as well as serve as a punishment for the company.

"We're not worried about putting BP out of business. The whole purpose for these penalties is to have a deterrence effect - essentially, to send this sufficiently strong message where the company loses its incentive to be reckless."

He also emphasizes the fact that today, much of the oil that was spilled remains at the bottom of the Gulf and is expected to surface periodically, causing new and additional damage. Just last month, a new oil slick appeared off the coast of Louisiana.

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