With even Time magazine's Michael Grunwald reporting that the BP gulf spill, now capped, "does not seem to be inflicting severe environmental damage" and even the New York Times reporting, "The oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico appears to be dissolving far more rapidly than anyone expected," the question arises: where does BP go to get its $20 billion back? What if the money that President Obama essentially seized from the company is far, far more than what it costs to fix the damage? Will BP get a refund? Or will the money just be distributed anyway to various environmentalist groups or other Democratic constituencies? Had BP managed to hold out against the political pressure for just a few more weeks until the well was capped, its shareholders might now have a share of that $20 billion, and the company would be in a stronger position to negotiate than it was a few weeks ago.
The June 16 BP press release announcing the $20 billion says "Any money left in the fund once all legitimate claims have been resolved and paid will revert to BP." We'll believe it when we see it, but the chance of such a reversion sure looks a lot greater than it did a few weeks ago. Whichever lawyer or BP official got that reversion provision written into the agreement deserves a bonus.