Timeline of Gulf oil spill and ensuing legal cases

AP News
Posted: Nov 15, 2012 3:45 PM

Timeline of the massive 2010 Gulf oil spill, government response and ensuing legal cases:

— April 20, 2010: An explosion and fire on the BP-operated drilling rig Deepwater Horizon kills 11 workers. Thousands of gallons of oil begin gushing into the Gulf of Mexico from the blown-out well.

— April 29, 2010: President Barack Obama makes his first public statement about "the worsening oil spill." He pledges "every single available resource" to contain the slick, including Pentagon assistance if necessary.

— May 14, 2010: Then-BP CEO Tony Hayward tells reporters that the amount of oil spilled is relatively small given the Gulf of Mexico's size. "The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean," he says. "The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume."

— May 28, 2010: Hayward says the "top kill" effort to plug the well is progressing as planned and had a 60 to 70 percent chance of success, the same odds he gave before the maneuver. The next day the company announces that the effort failed.

— May 30, 2010: Hayward, who is British, shocks Gulf residents when he says "I'd like my life back." He also disputes scientists' claims that there are large plumes of oil under the surface of the Gulf.

— June 16, 2010: BP agrees to put $20 billion into an escrow fund to settle economic injury claims by fishermen and various Gulf industries.

— June 22, 2010: A federal judge strikes down the Obama administration's six-month ban on deepwater drilling in the Gulf, saying the government rashly concluded that other rigs could be in immediate danger.

— July 1, 2010: Based on the high end of government estimates, the spill surpasses the 140 million gallon mark. That eclipses the 1979 Ixtoc disaster in the Gulf and means the BP spill now ranks as the biggest offshore oil spill during peacetime.

— July 15, 2010: After 85 days, BP manages to stanch the leak with a massive cap. The cap holds until a more permanent solution is put into place.

— July 26, 2010: BP says Hayward will step down on Oct. 1 and be succeeded by American Robert Dudley. BP said it planned to recommend Hayward for a non-executive board position at its joint venture in Russia.

— September 19, 2010: Federal officials say the well has been sealed for good after workers drill a relief well into the damaged one and insert a permanent cement plug.

— October 12, 2010: Obama's administration lifts the six-month moratorium on deep water oil drilling in the Gulf. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says new rules imposed after the BP spill have strengthened safety measures.

— December 15, 2010: The Justice Department files suit against BP and eight other companies over the accident, asking they be held liable for removal costs and damages caused by the explosion and spill.

— January 12, 2011: The 380-page report from government-appointed National Oil Spill Commission finds that time- and money-saving decisions created an unreasonable amount of risk that triggered the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

— March 2, 2012: A few days before the trial was to begin, BP and lawyers for the plaintiffs in a trial over the 2010 oil spill reach a settlement. Tens of thousands of people waiting for money from a fund being managed by Ken Feinberg, the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, can take what the settlement offers them or opt out and make a claim directly to a BP-run entity. They can sue if they don't like what they get from that fund.

— November 15, 2012: BP agrees to pay $4.5 billion in a settlement with the U.S. government over the massive 2010 oil spill and to plead guilty to felony counts related to the deaths of 11 workers and lying to Congress. The figure includes nearly $1.3 billion in criminal fines — the largest such penalty ever — along with payments to several government entities. Two BP well site leaders are charged with manslaughter, and a former executive is charged with lying to authorities.