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Federal judge accepts $1.4 billion plea deal over Gulf oil spill

A federal judge on Thursday accepted the guilty plea of Transocean Deepwater Inc. [corporate website] along with a criminal settlement of $400 million and $1 billion in civil penalties for the company's violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA) [EPA summary] during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill [BBC backgrounder]. Judge Jane Triche Milazzo of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana [official website] accepted [Reuters report] the plea agreement [text, PDF] saying the substantial penalty demonstrated the "deterrent effect of the plea process." The civil penalty is a record amount, and, in accordance with the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act), 80 percent of the penalty will be used to fund projects in the Gulf states for the environmental and economic benefit of the region. Additionally, Transocean must take measures to reduce the likelihood of another oil discharge. Transocean still has a pending settlement with a committee representing more than 100,000 individuals and business owners claiming damages from the spill, and the ultimate cost [Reuters report] of the spill to Transocean could be $4 billion.

Thursday's settlement is the latest development in a series of legal battles over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill since January 2012 when a federal judge ordered [JURIST report] British Petroleum (BP) [corporate website] to share partial liability with Transocean in oil spill claims. Last December a federal judge approved [JURIST report] a final class settlement between BP and those who experienced economic and property loss stemming from the spill. Last 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.

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