Bloomberg Businessweek explains why BP’s settlement of $4.5 billion is just the beginning:
So far, including the latest criminal settlement, BP has agreed to pay more than $12 billion in government and private settlements. It faces billions more in claims. As our cousins at Bloomberg News note in the dispatch linked to above, the British company remains at risk for as much as $17.6 billion in potential civil fines from alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and demands by the U.S. and Gulf states for additional money to restore the region’s coastline and waters to their condition prior to the spill. Some government officials put the remaining liability even higher. Garret Graves, chairman of Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, told Bloomberg News that the additional sums will “easily be in the tens of billions of dollars.” A federal civil trial is scheduled to begin in New Orleans in February, although further settlements are possible before then.