After spending more than $14 billion on the response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, BP will pay another $4.5 billion in penalties under a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, the biggest fine ever levied by the department.
Federal officials said they will also pursue gross negligence charges under the Clean Water Act, which could result in up to $20 billion in additional fines, ranging up to $4,300 per barrel of spilled oil.
The explosion killed 11 workers on the drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico and sent millions of gallons of crude oil spewing into the water, damaging fisheries, smearing beaches and wetlands and squelching tourism in the region for months. Followup studies have shown that oil remnants may affect Gulf ecosystems for years to come.
Under the settlement, BP accepted criminal responsibility for the disaster and will plead guilty to 11 felony counts of “seaman’s manslaughter” for the deaths on the oil rig. In a statement, the company acknowledged that its workers were negligent.
BP also said it will plead guilty to one felony count of obstruction of Congress for lying about the rate of oil spill from the failed well. The federal government also announced felony charges against three former BP employees for failing to conduct proper safety tests.
BP will also plead guilty to several misdemeanor counts under the Clean Water Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and pay $2.394 billion to the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation $350 million to the National Academy of Sciences over five years.
The company also agreed to strengthen its safety and testing procedures for all its offshore drilling operations.
Environmental coverage made possible in part by support from Patagonia. For information on Patagonia and its environmental efforts, visit www.patagonia.com. In affiliation with Summit County Voice. Photo by Wikimedia Commons