Oil Spill

Judge approves Transocean's guilty plea in Gulf oil spill

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Workers try to collect oil-covered sand in Pensacola
Beach, Fla. Cheryl Casey / Shutterstock.com

A federal judge in Houston has approved a plea agreement with Transocean, the Swiss-based owner and operator of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, for its role in the 2010 oil well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico that left 11 workers dead and resulted in a yearlong moratorium on deepwater drilling.

Under the agreement, Transocean will plead guilty to a misdemeanor negligence charge and pay $400 million in criminal penalties, the New York Times reports.

“I believe the plea agreement is reasonable and is accepted,” U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo said Thursday as she approved the deal.

Nobody appeared in court to object to the agreement, the Times reported. And Judge Milazzo said she had received no letters of opposition.

The fine is the second-highest ever paid for an environmental disaster, but is dwarfed by the $1.26 billion in criminal fines BP was assessed for its role in the same accident.

The agreement brings an end to the criminal case against Transocean, but the company still must settle a lawsuit with a plaintiff’s steering committee representing more than 100,000 businesses and people claiming damages from the spill. Transocean has also agreed to pay $1 billion in civil penalties and serve five years on probation.

In a statement released when the agreement was reached last month, Transocean said it “accepts responsibility” for its criminal conduct and viewed the deal as a “positive step forward.”

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