SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - A monumental ruling means Mississippi is closer to receiving billions of dollars from BP. Thursday, a judge ruled BP acted recklessly and bears most of the responsibility for the 2010 oil spill.
Ruling that BP was negligent means the company will face a higher penalty per barrel of oil leaked. According to the Clean Water Act, BP could end up paying $4,300 per barrel. There is still one more ruling that must be made before the money will be paid.
A judge must now decide how much oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico during the 2010 oil spill. Once that amount is determined, BP will be forced to pay billions of dollars to Mississippi and the other states affected by the spill.
"It's good to see it's finally moving along," State Sen. Brice Wiggins said. "That the projects we have talked about, which will restore our economy, create and drive economic development, will drive tourism, will drive so much that we depend on will finally come when this money comes."
Wiggins was one of around 100 community leaders appointed to a group formed by the governor to come up with guidelines for how the Restore Act money will be spent. The exact amount will be determined when a judge rules how many barrels of oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico, but the payout to Mississippi is now expected to be billions.
"It's nothing like we would ever see, which is why the governor, to his credit, established Go Coast 2020 coalition," Wiggins said. "To determine and be ahead of the game, so if we get this money, we know how we going to spend it and do it in the right way."
BP estimates 2.45 million barrels spilled. That could cost the company $10.5 billion, but the government estimates 4.2 million barrels actually spilled. That would mean BP could be forced to pay $18 billion. The money will be split between the five states affected by the spill.
"We didn't know when it was going to come, but it looks like it's headed that way," Wiggins said. "I would expect the judge's ruling on the amount of barrels would not be far off."
BP spokesmen said they strongly disagree the company was negligent and they plan to appeal.
"I would hope BP would seriously consider what the judge has found and own up for what they have done," Wiggins said. "Let the healing of the citizens of South Mississippi begin, and let's put this behind us and move forward."
While Go Coast 2020 developed guidelines for how the money will be spent, the group did not pick actual projects. If you have an idea, you can find the link to submit it by going to http://www.gocoast2020.com/submittals/