The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to consider BP's challenge to its $9.7 billion settlement over the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, rejecting the company's argument that hundreds of millions of dollars are going to businesses that weren't harmed.
The action means BP must make the payments as it continues to deal with the spill's aftermath.
"This is it in BP's attempt to toss the entire agreement," says Kevin A. McLean, a Tampa attorney with the BP Claims Law Group. "BP will continue to challenge other aspects of the settlement agreement and the claims process. But it cannot escape completely."
In 2012, BP signed a settlement agreement to compensate businesses claiming financial losses due to the spill. But BP has since argued the agreement has been interpreted improperly by Patrick Juneau, the settlement fund's court-appointed administrator, forcing it to pay businesses that could not show injury.
The challenge before the Supreme Court involved so-called business economic loss claims, a key part of the settlement. BP has paid $2.3 billion in such claims out of $4.25 billion in total compensation to individuals and businesses, according to Juneau.
BP spokesman Geoff Morrell told Reuters on Monday that the company remains concerned that entities that suffered no injury can make claims.
The offshore Deepwater Horizon spill, which killed 11 people, is the largest in U.S. history. It has cost London-based BP more than $28 billion in cleanup costs and damages, while the company continues to fight battles on multiple fronts. In a case set for trial in January, BP faces fines of up to $18 billion for violations of the U.S. Clean Water Act. It has put aside $43 billion to resolve all claims.
"I cannot predict how this will affect the processing of filed claims," Tampa's McLean stated. "But, I suspect the claims center will pick things up.
"This also starts the clock on filing new claims. The deadline is now set at six months from today."