Five years after the worst oil spill in history, the company that caused it has agreed to an historic $18+ billion settlement with the five Gulf States that were affected by the environmental disaster. The total also includes $5.5 billion in Clean Water Act penalties.

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill killed eleven BP workers (whose bodies were never found) and spilled approximately 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, destroying wildlife and damaging beaches and wetlands. Local economies took a big hit as well, with the fishing industry losing jobs and the states’ tourist industries losing dollars.

Healing the wounds

The National Audubon Society said the settlement sends an important message.

"You break it, you pay for it – that's how this is supposed to work," Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold said in a statement. "Now Gulf Coast restoration can begin in earnest. It's time to heal the wounds that BP tore in Gulf Coast ecosystems and communities."

Gross negligence

A federal judge in New Orleans ruled that the British oil giant acted with “gross negligence” in the oil rig explosion that caused the spill.

"Since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill -- the largest environmental disaster in our nation's history -- the Justice Department has been fully committed to holding BP accountable, to achieving justice for the American people and to restoring the environment and the economy of the Gulf region at the expense of those responsible and not the American taxpayer," said as Attorney General Loretta Lynch in a statement released by the Department of Justice.

BP has already been sentenced to pay $4 billion from criminal actions, including 11 felony manslaughter charges, environmental crimes and obstruction of Congress.

The agreement announced yesterday still has to be finalized.