Another major player in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and Gulf oil spill has pled guilty to crimes against the environment. Transocean Deepwater Inc. operated the rig that was drilling for oil at BP‘s Macondo Well. As part of its plea agreement, Transocean admits to violating the Clean Water Act (CWA) and agrees to pay a total of $1.4 billion in civil and criminal fines and penalties, for its conduct in relation to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
The drilling rig explosion and well blowout that occurred in April 2010 killed 11 workers and sent millions of barrels of toxic crude leaking into the gulf. In the years that followed, unraveling who was really responsible for the catastrophe proved to be no easy feat. Three companies, Transocean, BP, and the notorious Haliburton were all involved, and in the early days of investigation, all tried to shift blame to the other parties.
So far, BP and Transocean are the only two to own their crimes and agree to stiff financial penalties. In November 2012, BP pled guilty to 14 criminal counts and agreed to pay $4.5 billion over five years in a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department. In addition, BP agreed to $525 million over three years to settle claims with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which said the company concealed information from investors. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder also announced a separate 23-count criminal indictment — including charges of seaman’s and involuntary manslaughter — against the two top-ranking BP supervisors on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.
As part of its plea agreement, Transocean Deepwater Inc. has agreed, subject to the court’s approval, to pay $400 million in criminal fines and penalties and to continue its ongoing cooperation in the government’s criminal investigation. In addition, pursuant to the terms of a proposed partial civil consent decree also lodged with the court today, Transocean Ocean Holdings LLC, and all subsidiaries, have agreed to pay an additional $1 billion to resolve federal Clean Water Act civil penalty claims for the massive, three-month-long oil spill.
I’ve said it many times before, but it bears repeating: as satisfying as it is to hear these guilty pleas and see massive fines handed down, they are but a slap on the wrist and a drop in the bucket to these corporations. They’ll still be allowed to drill in American waters, putting people, wildlife, and the environment at risk.
Since these judgments won’t prevent another spill, bring back lost lives, or restore ruined businesses, all we can hope is that they’re a warning to other fossil fuel companies who think it’s okay to cut corners and sacrifice worker safety in the name of faster profits.
Image via NOAA
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