Transocean Ltd.’s agreement with the Justice Department to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge and pay $400 million in criminal penalties for its role in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill has also been approved. U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo accepted Transocean’s plea and imposed the agreed-upon sentence during a hearing on February 14th. Judge Milazzo said she had received no letters objecting to the settlement. Transocean has agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of violating the Clean Water Act.
Transocean owned the rig Deepwater Horizon, which exploded and sank over BP’s Macondo well in April 2010. The accident killed 11 men and sparked the nation’s worst-ever offshore oil disaster. Much of the $1.4 billion total that Transocean agreed to pay will fund environmental-restoration projects and spill-prevention research and training. The court filing says the failure by BP rig supervisors and Transocean crew members to properly investigate abnormally high pressure readings during a crucial safety test, called a negative test, was a “proximate cause” of the blowout and spill. But it was BP that determined whether and how the testing would be conducted. It was stated in the court filing:
BP, through its (supervisors) stationed on the Deepwater Horizon, was responsible for supervising the negative testing, and had the ultimate responsibility to ensure all operations, including the negative test, were conducted safely and according to the industry standard of care.
The $400 million in criminal penalties Transocean agreed to pay would be the second-highest criminal environmental recovery in U.S. history, trailing only BP’s $4 billion payment. Transocean has two years to pay the $1 billion civil penalty.
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