Judge approves Anadarko’s record $5.15 billion environmental settlement

November 11, 2014, 11:01 PM UTC
contract armin harris
Kyle Bean for Fortune

A judge has cleared the way for Anadarko Petroleum topay $5.15 billion to settle an environmental suit, the largest penalty ever in such a case, over fraud claims related to its acquisition of chemical company Tronox eight years ago.

The amount tops the previous record of $4.5 billion paid by BP (BP) to settle criminal charges over the 2012 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Most of Anadarko’s settlement money – $4.5 billion – will go to help clean up toxic waste sites around the country. The remainder of the cash will go to people who said they were sickened by the pollution.

The judge’s approval Tuesday lifted the final obstacle to the settlement and ended a drawn-out process that’s been years in the making. Kerr-McGee, an oil company, spun off Tronox in 2005 into a separate company shortly before selling it. Prosecutors alleged that Kerr-McGee engineered the maneuver in order to avoid liabilities related to its poor environmental track record.

Tronox declared bankruptcy in 2009 after being hit by large fines.

Anadarko is expected to pay the settlement money in 60 days after the final round of approval, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In her decision Tuesday, Judge Katherine B. Forrest of U.S. District Court in Manhattan agreed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Allan Gropper that the settlement was sufficient. The judge’s assessment overruled claims that the settlement was too low and that the claimants deserved a larger portion of the money.

“The court is sympathetic to the objectors, whose community is coping with the toxic legacy Kerr-McGee has left in its wake,” the judge said. “Nevertheless, the court must consider the broad interests of all of the parties affected by this litigation, not simply the narrow interests of the objectors.”