U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo in Houston has approved an agreement between Transocean Ltd. and the U.S. Justice Department to settle a criminal charge for its role in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The Swiss company, which leased the Deepwater Horizon rig to BP for exploratory drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, agreed to pay a $400 million penalty to settle a misdemeanor charge for violating the Clean Water Act.
Judge Milazzo said that nobody voiced opposition to the proposed settlement, which both parties agreed to last month, nor did she receive any letters objecting to it. When the agreement was reached last month, Transocean called it “a positive step forward” and said that the company “accepts responsibility” for the criminal negligence that allowed 206 million gallons of oil to flow into the Gulf. The judge approved the deal Thursday.
Transocean has also agreed to pay $1 billion in civil penalties stemming from the oil spill and will be on probation for five years. Much of the $1.4 billion Transocean will pay will be invested in oil spill prevention research and training and environmental restoration projects benefiting the states that suffered the most damage from the spill – Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.
BP, Transocean’s partner in the Deepwater Horizon drilling operation, has assumed most of the costs and penalties arising from the disaster, which killed 11 workers and set off the biggest oil spill in U.S. history. In a separate settlement, BP agreed to pay $4 billion to resolve several criminal charges, including 11 counts of felony manslaughter for the each of the workers killed in the blast that rocked the Deepwater Horizon, causing it to burn and collapse into the Gulf.
BP’s criminal penalties are the largest ever collected by federal prosecutors, and Transocean’s criminal charges are second-largest.
A number of independent and government reports have found that both BP and Transocean crews were negligent in interpreting the critical negative tests that gauge pressure in the oil well. Had the crews performed the tests properly and made the necessary adjustments, the well casing and cement would not have allowed oil and gas to escape, the reports found.
Transocean will have two years to pay the $1-billion civil penalty. The company previously said that it had reserved $2 billion for paying penalties and claims related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.