Guilty of manslaugh­ter, BP to pay $4B penalty

Judge ap­proves agree­ment over 2010 oil rig ex­plo­sion

Ottawa Citizen - - WORLD - MICHAEL KUN­ZEL­MAN

NEW OR­LEANS • Call­ing it “just pun­ish­ment,” a U.S. judge has ap­proved an agree­ment for BP PLC to plead guilty to manslaugh­ter and other charges and pay a record $4 bil­lion in crim­i­nal penal­ties for the com­pany’s role in the 2010 rig ex­plo­sion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mex­ico.

In ren­der­ing her de­ci­sion Tues­day, U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance ac­knowl­edged the risk that a trial could have re­sulted in a lower fine for BP.

Vance heard emo­tional tes­ti­mony from rel­a­tives of 11 work­ers who died when BP’s blown-out Ma­condo well trig­gered an ex­plo­sion on the Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon drilling rig and started the spill.

“I’ve heard and I truly un­der­stand your feel­ings and the losses you suf­fered,” she said.

Billy An­der­son, whose 35-year-old son, Ja­son, of Mid­field, Texas, died in the blast, re­called the trauma of watch­ing the dis­as­ter play out on tele­vi­sion.

“Th­ese men suf­fered a hor­ren­dous death,” he said. “They were ba­si­cally cre­mated alive and not at their choice.”

BP agreed in Novem­ber to plead guilty to charges in­volv­ing the work­ers’ deaths and for ly­ing to Congress about the size of the spill from its bro­ken well, which spewed more than 200 mil­lion gal­lons of oil. Much of it ended up in the Gulf and soiled the shore­lines of sev­eral states. The com­pany could have with­drawn from the agree­ment if Vance had re­jected it.

BP Amer­ica vice-pres­i­dent Luke Keller apol­o­gized to the rel­a­tives of the work­ers who died and for the spill’s en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age to the Gulf Coast.

“BP knows there is noth­ing we can say to di­min­ish their loss,” he said. “The lives lost and those for­ever changed will stay with us. We are truly sorry.”

Court­ney Kemp-Robert­son, whose 27-year-old hus­band, Roy Wy­att Kemp, of Jonesville, La., died on the rig, said work­ers had re­ferred to it as the “well from hell” be­fore the ex­plo­sion.

“By cut­ting cor­ners, they gam­bled with the lives of 126 crew mem­bers to save a few dol­lars,” she told the judge be­fore turn­ing to ad­dress Keller. “They gam­bled and you lost.”

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.

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-yearold 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.


Fire boat re­sponse crews bat­tle the blaz­ing rem­nants of the off­shore oil rig Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon in the Gulf of Mex­ico on April 21, 2010, near New Or­leans.

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