January 4, 2013 in Nation/World

Transocean will pay fine for role in gulf oil spill

Drilling company agrees to $1.4 billion settlement
Neela Banerjee McClatchy-Tribune
 

WASHINGTON – The offshore oil and gas drilling company Transocean has agreed to a $1.4 billion settlement with the Justice Department to resolve civil and criminal claims against the company for its role in the April 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Transocean owned the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig leased by BP that exploded and sank after the Macondo well blew out, killing 11 workers and spewing nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the sea.

In a statement, Transocean said that as part of the settlement, a “subsidiary has agreed to plead guilty to one misdemeanor violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA) for negligent discharge of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and pay $1.4 billion in fines, recoveries and penalties, excluding interest.”

Along with BP, Transocean was criticized repeatedly by various independent panels that reviewed the spill for its role in a highly dangerous deep-water drilling project that was marked by lax safety, poor communication and ad hoc decision-making. In November, BP agreed to pay a $4 billion criminal fine, the largest in U.S. history, and two of its employees were charged with manslaughter in connection with the deaths of the Deepwater Horizon workers.

The Transocean settlement concludes the Justice Department’s criminal investigation of the Swiss-based company and resolves civil claims against it.

“This resolution of criminal allegations and civil claims against Transocean brings us one significant step closer to justice for the human, environmental and economic devastation wrought by the Deepwater Horizon disaster,” said Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

The $1 billion civil penalty is the largest civil environmental penalty to date, according to David Uhlmann, a former chief of the Justice Department’s environmental crimes section and a law professor at the University of Michigan. Some of the money will go to coastal habitat restoration efforts and to research into oil spill prevention by the National Academy of Sciences, Transocean said.

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