Transocean and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced today that they've reached an agreement that forces the former to pay $1.4 billion in fines, admitting guilt to one misdemeanor in violating the Clean Water Act (CWA).
The announcement means that international rig giant Transocean -- owners of the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) submersible that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico Apr. 20, 2010, resulting in the loss of 11 lives -- knowingly ignored proper safety procedures. Recently, BP, which had leased the DWH, admitted culpability on 14 criminal counts and will have to pay $4.5 billion in related penalties, in addition to substantial fines to the DOJ.
The DOJ's Lanny A. Breuer, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said:
“Transocean’s rig crew accepted the direction of BP well site leaders to proceed in the face of clear danger signs — at a tragic cost to many of them... Transocean’s agreement to plead guilty to a federal crime, and to pay a total of $1.4 billion in criminal and civil penalties, appropriately reflects its role in the Deepwater Horizon disaster.”
Transocean's resolution will result in the DOJ "concluding its criminal investigation of Transocean and settling its claims for civil penalties against the company relating to the spill from BP's Macondo well," the company said today.
US Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement:
“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... This agreement holds Transocean criminally accountable for its conduct and provides nearly a billion dollars in criminal and civil penalties for the benefit of the Gulf states. I am particularly grateful today to the many Justice Department personnel and federal investigative agency partners for the hard work that led to today’s resolution and their continuing pursuit of justice for the people of the Gulf.”
Transocean said in their statement that they intend to satisfy payment obligations over five years. Additionally, they will shell out millions to help protect the Gulf of Mexico and clean up the mess resulting from the BP spill:
- $150 million to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) over five years
- $150 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) over three years.
The funds paid to the NAS will be used for oil spill prevention and response in the Gulf; funds paid to the NFWF will go toward natural resource restoration projects and coastal habitat restoration.
While not a part of today's announcement, Halliburton also remains a major player in the catastrophe. The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling found that Halliburton was jointly culpable along with BP and Transocean because its cement was an unstable mixture. According to the report, this allowed hydrocarbons to seep into the well and ultimately, cause the explosion.
In fact, in its later statement today, BP said in part that:
...Unfortunately, Halliburton continues to deny its significant role in the accident, including its failure to adequately cement and monitor the well.