A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana [official website] on Tuesday accepted a plea agreement [DOJ press release] between British Petroleum (BP) [corporate website] and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] for the company's role in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill [BBC backgrounder]. US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] announced that BP pleaded guilty to 14 criminal counts, including felony manslaughter arising out of the deaths of 11 crewmen, as well as obstructing Congress and violating the Clean Water and Migratory Bird Treaty Acts. BP was also sentenced to pay $4 billion in criminal fines and penalties, with more than $2 billion of the settlement money going directly to the Gulf region. Holder praised the plea agreement and emphasized the significance of the result:
Today's guilty plea and sentencing represent a significant step forward in the Justice Department's ongoing efforts to seek justice on behalf of those affected by one of the worst environmental disasters in American history. I'm pleased to note that more than half of this landmark resolution - which totals $4 billion in penalties and fines, and represents the single largest criminal resolution ever - will help to provide direct support to Gulf Coast residents as communities throughout the region continue to recover and rebuild.BP has also been placed on probation for five years and was ordered to take prophylactic measures to prevent future incidents, including the retention of a process safety and risk management monitor, an independent auditor and an ethics monitor to oversee safety and improve the company's code of conduct.
Tuesday's ruling was the most recent development in a long series of legal battles that have arisen from the Deepwater Horizon Crisis. Earlier this month, Transocean Deepwater Inc. [corporate website] pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to "negligently discharging oil into the Gulf of Mexico," in violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA) [EPA summary] and will pay $1 billion in civil penalties and $400 million in criminal penalties for its role in the Deepwater Horizon spill. Last month a federal judge approved [JURIST report] a final class settlement between BP and those who experienced economic and property loss stemming from the spill. In November BP executives pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to criminal charges stemming from the oil spill. Earlier that month BP agreed to pay [JURIST report] $4.5 billion in penalties for felony misconduct for its role in the spill. A federal judge ordered [JURIST report] BP to share partial liability with Transocean in oil spill claims in January 2012.