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BP announces class-action settlement in 2010 Gulf oil disaster

Oil Rig Fire

(CNN) — BP announced Wednesday it has reached a class-action settlement with attorneys representing thousands of businesses and individuals who made claims after the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The basic terms were announced two days before the second anniversary of the disaster that began with a rig explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon. Eleven workers died.

A federal judge must give preliminary approval of the pact, which BP estimates will total about $7.8 billion, including associated costs and expenses. The company, in a statement, cautioned the final tally could be higher.

”This settlement demonstrates BP’s continued progress in resolving significant issues related to the Deepwater Horizon accident,” said BP Chief Executive Bob Dudley. “BP made a commitment to help economic and environmental restoration efforts in the Gulf Coast, and this settlement provides the framework for us to continue delivering on that promise, offering those affected full and fair compensation, without waiting for the outcome of a lengthy trial process.”

The settlement would be paid from a $20 billion trust, BP said.

Oil spewed into the sea for nearly three months before a cap was placed on the BP-owned Macondo well, nearly a mile beneath the surface.

The spill damaged coral reef formations, according to researchers. Scientists have previously confirmed that a plume of hydrocarbons from the well settled in the deep Gulf.

Two agreements would cover the majority of economic, property and medical damage claims, BP said.

The plaintiffs and BP “believe that the settlement agreements are a fair, reasonable and adequate resolution of the claims,” the company said.

BP has asked a court to delay a liability trial until it decides whether to grant final approval to the agreements.

The Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee said, generally, there is no cap on the amount BP will pay to those who agree to the settlement. The committee said BP has agreed to pay $2.3 billion to members of the seafood industry.

“The people and businesses of the Gulf Coast stand to reap great benefits from these settlements,” said plaintiffs counsels James P. Roy and Stephen J. Herman. “We have held BP fully accountable for the Deepwater Horizon tragedy less than two years after the spill. Through extensive arms-length, good-faith negotiations, hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast residents and businesses will be made whole.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said about 59,200 barrels of liquid oil a day flowed from the well.

In September, the government issued a formal report on the oil spill, finding that BP, Transocean and Halliburton all shared responsibility for the explosion, but that BP was “ultimately responsible” for operations at the site “in a way that ensured the safety and protection of personnel, equipment, natural resources, and the environment.”

A federal judge in New Orleans earlier this year ruled that Halliburton is not liable for the some of the compensatory damages sought by third parties in the worst oil spill in U.S. history, leaving BP responsible for the majority of those claims. The judgment was similar to the decision that came down regarding Deepwater Horizon rig owner Transocean’s responsibility.

Halliburton was contracted by BP to cement the well and had argued its contract protected the energy company from legal action resulting from its work.

BP and Halliburton sued each other in April 2011, claiming each was to blame for the deadly explosion and resulting leak.

CNN’s Vivian Kuo contributed to this report.

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