Two and a half years after tens of millions of gallons of crude oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico from BP’s Deepwater Horizon drill platform, the company has pleaded guilty to more than 10 felonies and been fined $4.5 billion (largest in US history). In addition, two company employees will be charged with manslaughter related to the deaths of 11 employees who were working on the platform at the time of the gigantic blowout and resulting firm.
“Today’s agreement is consistent with BP’s position in the ongoing civil litigation that this was an accident resulting from multiple causes, involving multiple parties, as found by other official investigations,” the company said in a news release.
Even with a settlement on the criminal claims, BP would still be subject to other claims, including federal civil claims and claims for damages to natural resources.
In particular, this settlement does not include what is potentially the largest penalty: fines under the Clean Water Act. The potential fine for the spill under the Clean Water Act is $1,100 to $4,300 per barrel spilled. That means the fine could be as much as $21 billion, according to Peter Hutton of RBC Capital Markets in London.
Honestly I don’t think $4.5 billion is nearly enough, but alas it took decades for a final judgement to be awarded with the Exxon Valdez, so at least there is some “closure.”
A federal indictment unsealed in New Orleans claims BP well site leaders Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine acted negligently in their supervision of key safety tests performed on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig before the explosion killed 11 workers in April 2010. The indictment says Kaluza and Vidrine failed to phone engineers onshore to alert them of problems in the drilling operation.
Another indictment charges David Rainey, who was BP’s vice president of exploration for the Gulf of Mexico, on counts of obstruction of Congress and false statements. The indictment claims the former executive lied to federal investigators when they asked him how he calculated a flow rate estimate for BP’s blown-out well in the days after the disaster.