The U.S. Justice Department and Transocean Ltd. are reportedly close to settling a lawsuit that would resolve federal civil and criminal claims against the company for its role in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Transocean executives, however, cautioned in a regulatory filing that the $1.5-billion agreement hinged on a number of issues, including possible payment schedules.
“There can be no assurance that the parties will enter into agreements on the terms described or at all,” Transocean’s filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission stated.
Like BP, Switzerland-based Transocean, which owned and leased the Deepwater Horizon rig to BP for exploratory drilling, has been locked in an ongoing battle with the U.S. Justice Department over how much blame it shares with BP for the unprecedented disaster, which released more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf over 85 days.
Companies found liable for polluting U.S. waters can be fined between $1,000 and $4,300 per barrel of oil spilled, depending on circumstances and whether gross negligence or willful misconduct are found to be causes.
Transocean has also had settlement talks with BP and private lawyers representing individuals and businesses harmed by the oil spill, but says that it has rejected their offers and hasn’t had any further talks since February.
“The settlement amounts proposed by both BP and the (plaintiffs’ attorneys) were each far in excess of the amount contemplated by our current settlement discussions with the Department of Justice,” Transocean said in its filings.
Transocean has said it doesn’t expect to pay more than $2 billion for its role in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, including any claims for environmental damage under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. Although Transocean expects a $1.5-billion settlement would include those penalties, the federal government hasn’t agreed to those terms.
BP also continues talks with the federal government in an effort to settle civil and criminal fines related to the oil spill. The oil giant projects it will pay nearly $8 billion to resolve the claims.