BP’s Settlement Is Only the Beginning of the End of the Gulf Oil Spill
All the oil has been cleaned up or has evaporated from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico—well, nearly all of it—while the spill itself seems to have receded into memory, something that transfixed us for months but which is now little more than grist for an episode of the Newsroom. (Note: the amnesia may not apply to Gulf residents.) The legal mess over the worst oil spill in U.S. history, however, is still far from being cleaned up.
Still, a big step was taken on Nov. 15 towards resolving the legal problems over the spill when BP announced that it would pay $4.5 billion in fines and other payments to the government and plead guilty to 14 criminal charges connected to the 2010 accident which resulted nearly 5 million barrels of crude being spilled into the Gulf—as well as the deaths of 11 crewmen aboard the doomed Deepwater Horizon rig. The total amounts to the largest single criminal fine in corporate history.
Included in the settlement will be $4 billion related to those criminal charges—which include lying to the public about the size of the spill—and $525 million to security regulators. BP will also plead guilty to 11 felony counts of misconduct or neglect related to the deaths of those 11 crewmen. And there will be real criminal charges against real individuals. The Justice Department also announced that it will file manslaughter charges against the two top BP company men aboard the Deepwater Horizon, as well as charges of obstruction of Congress against David Rainey, BP’s former VP of exploration, for making false statements about the rate that oil was leaking out of the blown well.