BP money is expected to pay for restoration projects, which may include building new fishing piers and oyster reefs, or stabilizing bird sanctuaries with rock barriers
Patrick Semansky / AP
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Energy giant BP agreed Thursday to spend $1 billion this year for an array of cleanup projects in the Gulf of Mexico, bidding to speed environmental recovery from last year's massive oil spill while paring down its own liability for the nation's largest offshore oil spill.
The agreement between BP, the federal government and the five Gulf states oiled by the spill sets into motion years of work restoring natural resources. BP and the other companies involved in the 206-million-gallon spill face billions of dollars in fines for long-term restoration.
"This milestone agreement will allow us to jump-start restoration," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said.
The Justice Department said the agreement does not affect the potential legal liability that BP and other companies may face from lawsuits for damages resulting from the spill, which began after the Deepwater Horizon rig off Louisiana exploded on April 20, 2010.
The money is expected to fund an array of restoration projects — which could be as diverse as building fishing piers, building new oyster reefs, or stabilizing bird sanctuaries with rock barriers — all to be chosen after public review. Those projects are to be selected by a trustee council, a federal-state body set up to safeguard the public's resources and oversee the oil spill restoration.