McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Local News

January 29, 2013

Judge OKs $4B BP oil spill criminal settlement

(Continued)

NEW ORLEANS —

Vance told victims’ relatives who were in court that she read their “truly gut-wrenching” written statements and factored their words into her decision. She also said she believes BP executives should have personally apologized to family members long before Monday’s hearing. “I think BP should have done that out of basic humanity,” she said.

The deal doesn’t resolve the federal government’s civil claims against BP. The company could pay billions more in penalties for environmental damage. Keith Jones, whose 28-year-old son, Gordon, died in the rig explosion, said $4 billion isn’t adequate punishment.

“It is petty cash to BP,” he told Vance. “Their stock went up after this plea deal was announced.” BP separately agreed to a settlement with lawyers for Gulf Coast residents and businesses who claim the spill cost them money. BP estimates the deal with private attorneys will cost the company roughly $7.8 billion.

For the criminal settlement, BP agreed to pay nearly $1.3 billion in fines. The largest previous corporate criminal penalty assessed by the Justice Department was a $1.2 billion fine against drug maker Pfizer in 2009. The criminal settlement also includes payments of nearly $2.4 billion to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and $350 million to the National Academy of Sciences.

In a court filing before the hearing, attorneys for BP and the Justice Department argued that the plea agreement imposes “severe corporate punishment” and will deter BP and other deep-water drilling companies from allowing another disaster to occur.

The Justice Department has reached a separate settlement with rig owner Transocean Ltd. that resolves the government’s civil and criminal claims over the Swiss-based company’s role in the disaster.

Transocean agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of violating the Clean Water Act and pay $1.4 billion in civil and criminal penalties. U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo has scheduled a Feb. 14 hearing to decide whether to accept that criminal settlement.

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