BP told to fund disputed Gulf settlement program
(CNN) — A federal judge in New Orleans on Wednesday ordered BP to put up nearly $130 million for the next three months of Gulf oil spill settlements despite the oil company's complaints about excessive costs.
BP has alleged the Court Supervised Settlement Program has been approving excessive or false claims from people or businesses that say they were damaged by the Deepwater Horizon blowout in 2010.
The company balked at providing the $128 million-plus budget program administrators presented it with in July, telling the court Monday that it had "significant concerns" about the program's "poor productivity and excessive costs," according to court papers.
Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan overruled BP's objections, giving it until Monday to fund the program for the third quarter of 2013. But Shushan also told the claims program to send BP budget estimates 60 days in advance from now on.
The program sent its last budget request to BP on July 17, warning the company that it would run out of funds at the end of July.
Geoff Morrell, BP's top U.S. spokesman, said in a written statement that the company had asked for information under the settlement agreement, and the court had agreed those claims were legitimate -- but hasn't ordered the claims program to provide what it wants.
"The CSSP also acknowledged that the information BP sought is readily available," Morrell said. "BP offered interim funding to cover currently payable invoices while it reviewed that information. Nevertheless, the Court declined to order the CSSP to provide that information and instead ordered BP to fully fund the CSSP's nearly $130 million budget."
Shushan's order found the company "unreasonably withheld" its approval of the proposed budget. The company has spent an estimated $42 billion on cleanup, compensation and penalties since the April 2010 blowout at one of its wells deep in the Gulf of Mexico.