(GULF SHORES, Ala.) Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft and Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon say BP facing criminal penalties is a huge step in making the oil giant accountable. It's the civil payments that are the real key here say both mayors. "It does indicate a willingness to settle, " said Craft.
The big question now is will this "about face" lead to money for economic damages and the long term environmental damages to the coast? "As a business person I felt like it was never in BP's best interest to be found negligent in any case. Their shareholder confidence is a responsibility that they have. To protect shareholders is their number one concern, " said Craft. "I think what they've done is strategically set the bar very low so that the civil penalties will not have to be the maximum that they should be, " said Kennon. This could be a problem for all coastal communities says Kennon.
Kennon believes Thursday's settlement and criminal penalties are about not wanting to go to court. Kennon says the Justice Department is playing along and in the end BP will save billions of dollars.
Civil actions will determine how much money is filtered through the Clean Water Act and how those fines translate into cash through the Restore Act. "The problem is that the Department of Justice may settle for less than they should which is a concern that we have because we won't be involved in that, " said Craft. "What I see is this 4 and a half billion sets the bar very low.
What will happen now in my opinion is that instead of being fined $4,000 per barrel they will be fined less than that and in most of our opinions it should be at the $4,000 per barrel level," said Kennon. Those fines per barrel will be the source for repairing the environment and the local economy.