Five questions answered on… BP's record fine for Deepwater Horizon

The oil giant's in giant trouble.

How much does BP have to pay in the settlement? 

The oil giant pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of 11 men during the 2010 spill and have been ordered to pay $4.5bn (£2.8bn) to the US authorities. 

How much has the oil spill cost BP altogether? 

After this latest settlement it is estimated the biggest oil spill disaster in America’s history has caused the offending company £43bn. 

However, there is also a civil case that remains unresolved accusing BP of gross negligence, which if BP are found guilty it will no doubt have to pay out even more. 

What about the manslaughter charges?

BP has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of 11 men. The Department of Justice has also charged BP’s two highest-ranking supervisors on the Deepwater Horizon, Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine, with manslaughter, negligence and gross negligence.

Also, David Rainy a former senior BP executive who served as deputy commander during the spill has been arrested for allegedly underestimating the spill. 

BP will also plead guilty to two criminal misdemeanor counts over the spill and to a criminal felony charge of obstructing Congress by lying about the amount of leaking from the Macondo well. 

What have officials said about the settlement? 

The Telegraph report that the New Orleans assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer said:

“Perhaps the greatest tragedy is that the deaths of the 11 men on board the Deepwater Horizon could have been avoided. As the oil spill continued, BP made a tragic situation worse: it began misleading Congress and the American people about how much oil was pouring out of the Macondo well.”

What has BP said? 

BP chief executive Bob Dudley said:

“All of us at BP deeply regret the tragic loss of life caused by the Deepwater Horizon accident as well as the impact of the spill on the Gulf coast region.

“We apologise for our role in the accident and, as today’s resolution with the US government further reflects, we have accepted responsibility for our actions.”

Deepwater Horizon burns in 2010. Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for

Photo: Getty Images
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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.