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February 21, 2013

BP civil settlement elusive as trial nears

NEW ORLEANS — The U.S. Justice Department and the five Gulf coast states affected by a massive oil spill nearly three years ago have indicated they would like to settle their environmental and economic claims with BP PLC ahead of a trial scheduled to start next week.

The problem is that they haven’t been able to agree on the possible terms of such an agreement. Months of negotiations have failed to resolve lingering differences — not just with the London-based oil giant, but among themselves.

The Justice Department convened a meeting with Gulf Coast state officials in Washington late last week in an effort to hammer out an offer to resolve the outstanding civil claims, but an agreement wasn’t reached, said a person familiar with the negotiations.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said reaching a settlement that satisfies all states’ competing interests has been difficult.

“We just want to make sure we get our fair share,” he said.

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