According to an article from the Houston Chronicle, a federal judge has approved a deal that allows BP to plead guilty to manslaughter and other criminal charges as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion. BP has agreed to a $4 billion fine, probation and independent monitoring. U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance’s decision came during an emotional hearing in New Orleans and was issued over the objections of victims of the disaster and relatives of some of the 11 workers who were killed on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. “The government has caught the bank robber and cut a deal with the criminals for return of the money and left the people shot in the bank robbery to fend for themselves,” said rig survivor Buddy Trahan, who suffered extensive injuries in the blast but hasn’t been compensated by BP. Trahan was among eight victims of the disaster, including the widows and fathers of some of the rig workers who were killed and people who were affected by the spill, who spoke of how BP’s negligence changed their lives.
A BP executive apologized directly to the families and insisted that the company has fully accepted its responsibility. “We are doing what we can to prevent something like this from happening again,” Keller, a BP vice president, told the judge. He added, “We at BP will not forget what happened on April 20, 2010. We are truly sorry.” While the guilty plea ends the criminal case against BP, the British oil giant still faces the prospect of having to pay billions more in civil fines over the amount of oil that spilled. A civil trial is set to begin in the same courthouse Feb. 25.
The catastrophe started when a well a mile beneath the sea blew out on April 20, 2010, about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana. The blow out caused an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon, which later sank. The resulting spill was the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. According to government estimates, some 4.9 million barrels of oil, or 206 million gallons, was discharged by the well. The crude stained beaches, killed birds and fish and drove tourists away. BP has already paid out more than $24 billion on clean-up efforts, to compensate victims and to cover other spill-related costs. During the hearing, several victims suggested the punishment BP agreed to wasn’t harsh enough for a company with pockets as deep as BP. They asked Vance to reject the deal and force BP to go to trial. “It may be a record fine, but we are not here today to set records,” said Billy Anderson, whose son, Jason, was killed on the rig. “We are here to punish BP. To punish a corporation, you must do the same thing you do a punish a child. The first thing you have to do is get their attention.” Keith Jones, whose son, Gordon, was killed on the rig, described the fine as “petty cash.” “BP doesn’t want to feel the pain and they won’t have to, not as much,” he told the judge.