Judge orders BP to pay $130 million

Millions are part of settlement with Gulf Coast residents in the wake of 2010 oil spill

The Deepwater Horizon spill seen from space in May 24, 2010. (NASA)

A federal judge Wednesday ordered BP to pay more than $130 million in fees to the court-supervised overseer of its $4.5 billion settlement with Gulf Coast businesses and residents after the company's 2010 oil spill.

The ruling upheld that of U.S. Magistrate Sally Shushan, who earlier Wednesday ordered BP to pay the fees.

The company had tried to block the payments. It argues that many of the claims made by businesses are inflated or fictitious.

Shushan said there was no way she could cut off funding for administration of the program on such short notice.

"People are dependent. Jobs are dependent. We just can't have that happen," Shushan said.

When BP appealed Shushan's decision, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier summoned the parties to his courtroom for another hearing.

The ruling comes while former FBI Director Louis Freeh investigates allegations of misconduct by an attorney who worked on the settlement program. BP also has complained of broader problems in the program run by court-appointed claims administrator Patrick Juneau.

The dispute over Juneau's administrative expenses is just the latest chapter in BP's increasingly aggressive campaign to challenge his handling of the claims process.

Separately, the company has accused him and Barbier, who is overseeing the oil spill settlement, of misinterpreting the settlement in a manner that could force the company to pay billions of dollars in what it says are inflated and fictitious claims by businesses.

In his ruling Wednesday, Barbier said Juneau needs to submit his budget proposals earlier than he has been. But the judge concluded that BP's refusal to pay for the settlement program's third-quarter budget wasn't reasonable.

"My primary concern is that we don't allow these issues to cause a shutdown of the claims facility," Barbier said.

BP attorney Keith Moskowitz said it is "patently unreasonable" to expect BP to pay more than $130 million without a more detailed budget proposal from Juneau. He said the one Juneau submitted in June was "in summary form without any backup."

"That's simply not how budgets are created. That's not how businesses are operated," he told Shushan.

The court case being battled out now stems from explosion on an offshore oil rig, the Deepwater Horizon.

The blast killed 11 workers and sank the platform to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico

Damage at the undersea wellhead sent millions of gallons of thick, raw oil spewing into the water, harming wildlife and the coast for months, until the U.S. Navy declared the well fully capped in Sept. 2010.

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press

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