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BP says it reached $7.8 billion deal on suit over 2010 Gulf oil spill

NEW ORLEANS -- BP and a committee representing 100,000 fishermen, sickened cleanup workers and others suing over the 2010 Gulf oil spill have reached an estimated $7.8 billion agreement to settle the lawsuit, company officials said late Friday.

Federal Judge Carl Barbier, who also announced the settlement pact but did not provide details, said that as a result of the deal, the trial scheduled to begin Monday has been postponed for a second time.

No new date was immediately set.

The agreement will be filed with the court for approval, Barbier said.

The settlement will likely result in a realignment of the parties in this litigation and require substantial changes to the current trial plan, he said. He didn't elaborate, and there was no mention in his order of anything about the status of BP's talks with the federal government and other parties.

Bob Dudley, BP Group CEO, said in a statement obtained by NBC News that the oil company worked for two years to meet its obligations to the Gulf Coast region.

"The proposed settlement represents significant progress toward resolving issues from the Deepwater Horizon accident and contributing further to economic and environmental restoration efforts along the Gulf Coast," Dudley said.

BP said it estimated that the cost of the proposed settlement, expected to be paid from a $20 billion trust set up after the spill, would be approximately $7.8 billion. This includes a BP commitment of $2.3 billion to help resolve economic loss claims related to the Gulf seafood industry.

Before the proposed settlement, BP said, the company spent more than $22 billion, including paying out more than $8.1 billion to individuals, businesses and government entities and $14 billion on "operational response."

The proposed settlement does not include claims against BP made by the U.S. Department of Justice or other federal agencies, including those under the Clean Water Act and for Natural Resource Damages under the Oil Pollution Act, or by state and local governments, BP said.

The Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico off Louisiana in April 2010, killing 11 workers and spewing more than 200 million gallons of oil from an undersea well owned by BP. The spill soiling sensitive tidal estuaries and beaches, killing wildlife and shutting vast areas of the Gulf to commercial fishing.

The main targets of litigation resulting from the explosion and spill were BP, Transocean, Halliburton and Cameron International, maker of the well's failed blowout preventer. BP, the majority owner of the well that blew out, was leasing the rig from Transocean.

BP  reported 2011 profits of $40 billion, $7.7 billion alone in the last quarter. It recently raised its dividend to shareholders by 14 percent. BP recently said it has 5 deep water rigs operating in the Gulf of Mexico and expects to be operating an additional three by the end of 2012.

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