Another Record Settlement for Gulf Oil Spill

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Thick oil is seen washed ashore from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on July 1, 2010 in Gulfport, Mississippi.

Less than two months after BP announced a record settlement over criminal charges for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the company that owned the rig has announced a civil and criminal settlement for a total of $1.4 billion.

While BP leased the Deepwater Horizon rig and owned rights to the Macondo well, a crew from Transocean Deepwater Inc. owned the rig and operated it. In a statement today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that “members of [the Transocean] crew onboard the Deepwater Horizon, acting at the direction of BP’s “Well Site Leaders” or “company men,” were negligent in failing fully to investigate clear indications that the Macondo well was not secure and that oil and gas were flowing into the well.”

The blowout on April 20, 2010 killed 11 workers, nine of them Transocean employees, and resulted in a 3-month oil spill that sent 206 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It was the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

In the agreement announced today, Transocean will plead guilty to violating the Clean Water Act and “must implement court-enforceable measures to improve the operational safety and emergency response capabilities at all their drilling rigs working in waters of the United States,” according to the EPA.

The EPA states that a portion of the criminal fine, $150 million, will go towards Gulf restoration and conservation and another $150 million will go to “improved oil spill prevention and response efforts in the Gulf through research, development, education and training.” 80 percent of the civil penalty, which represents $1 billion of the settlement, will be dedicated to “projects in and for the Gulf states for the environmental and economic benefit of the region,” according to the EPA.

The settlement was heralded by some restoration and environmental groups, including the Environmental Defense Fund, Nature Conservancy, and National Wildlife Federation.

Update: Toby Baker, a new commissioner at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), released the following statement this afternoon:

“I am pleased with today’s news that the Transocean defendants have agreed to a partial civil settlement with the United States in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill case.  This is a step in the right direction for continued Gulf Coast recovery efforts and, because a portion of the settlement was for civil penalties, it will begin to fund the activities of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council.  

The work of the Restoration Council has just begun and there remains a long road ahead to restore the Gulf.”

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