International oil giant BP has reached a settlement with the federal government and Gulf of Mexico coastal states for damages arising from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The New York Times has a report (see: “BP to Pay $18.7 Billion for Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill,” by Campbell Robertson, John Schwartz, and Richard Perez-Pena).

“The deal would include, in addition to the federal government, the states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, as well as more than 400 local government entities along the coast, which had argued that the spill had ruined tourist seasons, crippled the seafood industry and dried up sales tax revenue,” the Times reports. “The settlement still must be approved by United States District Court Judge Carl J. Barbier in New Orleans, who oversaw a tremendously complex two-year civil trial concerning the spill.”

The settlement would come on top of a $4 billion criminal penalty already assessed against BP. And it wouldn’t be the end of the company’s potential liability — individuals who claim they were harmed are not part of the settlement, and neither are BP shareholders.

The award also won’t be the end of the story for public interest groups concerned about the episode. “Let’s put it this way: I’m still going to come in to work tomorrow,” Bethany Kraft, director of the Gulf Restoration Program at the Ocean Conservancy, told the Times. “I think it’s still critically important for all of us to pay attention to how this money is spent.”

State officials appear to feel the same way. Alabama state and local leaders are still trying to figure out what’s in the settlement for them, reports the news website (see: “Alabama Gulf Coast leaders sift through BP settlement confusion, prepare for possible regional divide,” by John Sharp). "It's a lot of unanswered questions and a lot of confusions on the way this came down," Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft said. "We really have to start from scratch."

“Details of the agreement are shielded from the public and elected officials because of a confidentiality agreement reached during the settlement process,” reports. “As such, there has been a variety of interpretations on the final settlement -- Gov. Robert Bentley said it was $2.3 billion, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange's office claims it was $2 billion, and U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne's office has tossed out a $1.9 billion figure. ‘It seems to be a moving target,’ Dauphin Island Mayor Jeff Collier said. ‘I think the important part of this is ... where will the money eventually end up and who will have the eventual say on where it goes.’”