GULF SPILL:

Transocean settles with DOJ over Deepwater Horizon claims

Transocean Ltd. today agreed to pay $1.4 billion to resolve civil and criminal claims over its role in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The company -- the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded, leading to 11 deaths and a massive oil spill -- said it would plead guilty to violating the Clean Water Act and pay $1 billion in civil penalties and $400 million to resolve criminal claims, the Justice Department announced.

In November, BP PLC -- which leased the rig from Transocean -- settled its own criminal case, but civil claims are still outstanding (Greenwire, Nov. 15, 2012).

Transocean signed a plea agreement that was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana today. It has also agreed to cooperate with the government as it continues a criminal investigation into the explosion and spill. So far, DOJ has filed criminal charges against four BP workers involved in the disaster (E&ENews PM, Nov. 15, 2012).

Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement that the settlement "brings us one significant step closer to justice for the human, environmental and economic devastation wrought by the Deepwater Horizon disaster."

The head of DOJ's criminal division, Lanny Breuer, said the Transocean rig crew "accepted the direction of BP well site leaders to proceed in the face of clear danger signs."

Transocean said in a statement that the settlement was "a positive step forward, but it is also a time to reflect on the 11 men who lost their lives aboard the Deepwater Horizon."

DOJ said $150 million of the $400 million criminal settlement would go to the environmental projects on the Gulf Coast. As a result of legislation passed by Congress last year, known as the Restore Act, 80 percent of the $1 billion civil penalty will also go to the Gulf states.

In addition to the ongoing civil enforcement action against BP, the government has outstanding civil claims against Anadarko Petroleum Corp., another of BP's partners. DOJ has already settled claims against MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC, which had a minor stake in the well, for $90 million.

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