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Transocean to pay $1.4 billion for role in gulf oil spill

January 03, 2013|By Neela Banerjee

WASHINGTON -- Transocean, the offshore oil and gas drilling company, 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 was the owner of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig leased by BP that exploded and sank after the Macondo well blew out in the Gulf, 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."

The settlement would lead to the conclusion of the Justice Department's criminal investigation against Transocean and resolution of civil claims against it. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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, federal prosecutors announced that two BP supervisors had been charged with manslaughter and that the company would pay a $4-billion criminal fine, the largest in U.S. history.

The criminal settlement with BP, and an indictment handed down by a federal grand jury, painted a picture of a corporation that placed "profit over prudence," Assistant Atty. Gen. Lanny Breuer said in November.

Not only did the BP supervisors on board the rig the night of the explosion fail to take steps to prevent the blowout when they realized they were losing control of the deep-sea well, company executive David I. Rainey later lied to Congress about the size and severity of the spill, prosecutors said.

The explosion on the night of April 20, unleashed a gush of oil from broken equipment on the seabed that continued for nearly three months off the Louisiana coast. The spill shut down commercial fisheries, destroyed the summer beach season along part of the coast and fouled coastal wetlands.

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