On January 3, federal officials announced that they had reached an agreement with Transocean – the company that operated the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig – to settle charges stemming from the major oil spill that took place in the Gulf of Mexico during 2010.
Under the terms of its agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which is still awaiting court approval, Transocean would be compelled to plead guilty to one count of violating the Clean Water Act (CWA). The company would also pay a total of $1.4 billion in civil and criminal penalties over the course of the next five years.
In a press release announcing the settlement, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder framed the agreement as an effective way to hold Transocean accountable for its conduct in the connection with the spill, while also raising funds to support cleanup and preservation projects along the Gulf Coast.
"This resolution of criminal allegations and civil claims against Transocean brings us one significant step closer to justice for the human environmental and economic devastation wrought by the Deepwater Horizon Disaster," Holder said.
Ignacia Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for DOJ's Environment and Natural Resources Division, added that the settlement will require Transocean to implement new safety measures and adhere to a stringent auditing and monitoring regime to reduce the risk of a similar disaster taking place in the future.
The hefty fines being paid out by companies connected to the Deepwater Horizon disaster underscore the importance of using reliable, high-quality oil production equipment. Previously, British Petroleum (BP) agreed to pay more than $4 billion to settle charges related to the incident.