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Sen. David Vitter (R., La.) is asking the U.S. Justice Department to hold off on a civil settlement with BP Plc (BP, BP.LN) over the Deepwater Horizon accident until the company comes to terms with Gulf Coast states on other environmental penalties.

In a letter Tuesday to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Mr. Vitter said he is concerned that a settlement over Clean Water Act violations--which is widely expected to reach into the billions of dollars--might lead states to spend those funds on environmental-restoration projects that are supposed to be covered by another process, the Natural Resources Damages Assessment, or NRDA. BP declined to comment.

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