MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Trial is set to begin on Monday in the lawsuit against British Petroleum over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The trial will determine how much the oil giant and three contracted companies will pay for the damage caused by the 2010 disaster.
It's been nearly three years since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion claimed 11 lives and spilled millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
The disaster led to lawsuits against BP by the Federal government, five gulf coast States, and thousands of private claimants.
Many, including Mobile Baykeeper Executive Director Casi Callaway were hopeful a settlement would be reached.
The trial itself could be long. The first phase is expected to last up to three months.
"I really didn't think it would go to trial. BP has so much to lose in terms of public opinion. I think airing their dirty laundry is going to be nothing but more negativity for a company that has done so much damage along the Gulf Coast," Callaway said.
BP won a partial victory earlier this month when the government agreed the oil giant would not have to pay penalties for more than 800,000 gallons of leaked oil the company recovered during clean-up.
The concession reduces the maximum penalty BP could pay to $18 billion.
State and local governments have submitted claims totaling more than $34 billion.
One sticking point among the states has been determining how much money BP would pay in Clean Water Act penalties which covers economic damages, and how much it would pay through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process, or NRDA, which covers environmental damage.
"We all know that restoring our environment will restore our economy. So, we have to focus on both pieces: NRDA and the RESTORE Act, both of them need to be fully funded. We need to make sure we get the most we should get in both of those pieces," Callaway said.
Time is running out to reach a settlement before tomorrow's trial, but Callaway still thinks it will happen.
"I think they'll still settle. I honestly believe it is in everyone's best interest for them to settle, BP's, Haliburton's, other responsible parties, but absolutely it's in the best interest of our communities. Restoration, we've had a billion dollars for restoration money that we can't spend, because BP keeps tying our hands. It's that going to be the way we look at the next three or four, or five years, because of a trial?" Callaway said.
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