WASHINGTON, D.C. - (Mealey's) The U.S. Department of Justice announced that a federal judge in Louisiana has accepted Transocean Ltd.'s guilty plea for violating the Clean Water Act (CWA) over its conduct leading to the 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and that the company will pay $400 million in criminal fines and penalties (In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig "Deepwater Horizon" in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2012, MDL 2179, E.D. La.; See January 2013, Page 7).
The agency said the $400 million in fines and criminal penalties are the second largest environmental crime recovery in U.S. history, behind the $4 billion BP Exploration and Production Inc. agreed to pay in connection with the same disaster. U.S. Judge Jane Triche Milazzo of the Eastern District of Louisiana accepted the plea and found that the sentence adequately reflects Transocean's role in the accident, the agency explained.
Transocean is the owner of the Deepwater Horizon. During the hearing on the company's plea, Transocean admitted that members of its crew on the Deepwater Horizon were acting at the direction of BP's well site leaders and failed to fully investigate indications that the Macondo well was not secure.
The DOJ noted that $150 million of the $400 million will be dedicated to acquiring, restoring, preserving and conserving marine and coastal environments and bird and wildlife habitats in the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding states. Payments will be made to the National Academy of Sciences and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Another portion of the money will be used to fund improved oil spill prevention and response efforts in the Gulf.
Transocean also was sentenced to five years' probation as part of the plea agreement.
On Jan. 3, the company agreed to pay $1 billion in civil penalties for violating the CWA. The consent decree is still subject to approval by U.S. Judge Carl Barbier of the Eastern District of Louisiana, who is presiding over a multidistrict litigation over claims arising from the incident.
Brad D. Brian, Michael R. Doyen, Luis Li and Daniel B. Levin of Munger Tolles & Olson in Los Angeles, Steven L. Roberts and Rachel G. Clingman of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan in Houston and Richard Sauber of Robbins Russell Englert Orseck Untereiner & Sauber in Washington represent Transocean.
Peter Frost of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington and Sharon D. Smith of the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Orleans are counsel for the government.
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