Home » Transocean Settles With U.S. Government on Deepwater Clean Water Act Claims
More funds will go toward Gulf Coast cleanup and restoration as a result of a settlement announced on Jan. 3 between Transocean Deepwater and the federal government.
In the settlement, Transocean Deepwater Inc. has agreed to plead guilty to violating the Clean Water Act and pay $1.4 billion in civil and criminal penalties for its role in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. Transocean was the operator of the drilling platform at the Macondo well that blew out in April 2010.
Under the order, lodged with the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana, $150 million of the $400-million criminal recovery will be dedicated to restoring and conserving the marine and coastal environments, ecosystems and bird and wildlife habitats in the Gulf of Mexico and bordering states harmed by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Moreover, the civil settlement secures $1 billion in civil penalties for violations of the CWA, a record amount according to Justice Dept. officials. The $1 billion penalty will be subject to the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economics of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act), which requires 80% of the penalties to be used to fund projects in and for the Gulf states for the environmental and economic benefit of the region.
Transocean also agreed to implement court-enforceable measures to improve the operational safety and emergency response capabilities at all their drilling rigs working in U.S. waters.
Additionally, Transocean will pay $150 million to the National Academy of Sciences over a five-year period to support a National Academy of Sciences 30-year program to study and protect the environment in the Gulf of Mexico. The $150 million adds to the $350 million provided by BP in a settlement announced in November 2012.
In a statement, Ignacia Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Justice Dept.’s Environment and Natural Resource Division, said, “This settlement will provide immediate relief and benefits to the people of the five Gulf States, and requires Transocean to implement significant safety measures, as well as stringent auditing and monitoring to reduce the risk of any future disasters.”
The settlement is part of an ongoing criminal investigation by the Deepwater Horizon Task Force, supervised by assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer and led by deputy assistant attorney general John Burette, who serves as the director of the task force. The task force includes prosecutors from several government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Dept. of the Interior, and the Criminal Division and the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Dept. of Justice.
According to Transocean, the settlement “remove[s] much of the uncertainty associated with the accident” and is a “positive step forward.”
BP remains the primary target of the criminal and civil investigations, and could face up to $20 billion in CWA penalties. But BP continues to emphasize that all official investigations into causes of the accident have shown that “the Deepwater Horizon accident resulted from multiple causes, involving multiple parties.”
In a Jan. 3 statement, BP said that by settling, Transocean “has acknowledged that it played a significant role and has responsibility for the accident….Unfortunately, Halliburton continues to deny its significant role in the accident, including its failure to adequately cement an monitor the well.”
Beverly Blohm Stafford, a spokesman for Halliburton, says that the firm “remains confident that all the work it performed with respect to the Macondo well was completed in accordance with BP’s specifications for its well construction plan and instructions. We continue to believe that we have substantial legal arguments and defenses against any liability and that BP's indemnity obligation protects us. Accordingly we will maintain our approach of taking all proper actions to protect our interests.”