BP agrees to pay $4.5 billion in penalties for U.S. oil spill

Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon, off Louisiana, in 2010.

BP Plc will pay $4.5 billion in penalties and plead guilty to felony misconduct in the Deepwater Horizon disaster that caused the worst offshore oil spill in the country’s history, the company said on Thursday.

The settlement includes a $1.256 billion criminal fine, the largest such levy in U.S. history, the company said. A settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is also part of the deal, as are payments to the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation and the National Academy of Sciences.

The April, 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 workers. The mile-deep Macondo oil well then spewed 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf over 87 days, fouling shorelines from Texas to Florida and eclipsing in severity the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.

The oil company said Thursday it would plead guilty to 11 felony counts related to the workers’ deaths, a felony related to obstruction of Congress and two misdemeanors.

BP, which replaced its chief executive after the spill as its market value plummeted, still faces economic and environmental damage claims sought by four Gulf Coast states and other private plaintiffs.

BP has been negotiating for months with the U.S. government and Gulf Coast states to settle billions of dollars of potential civil and criminal liability claims.

BP’s U.S. shares were up about 1.3 percent on Thursday while its London-traded shares were 0.3 percent higher.

Wall Street analysts were encouraged that the plea deal could resolve a significant share of the liability BP faces. But it is not a “global” deal to resolve all outstanding civil and criminal liability with the U.S. government and Gulf Coast states.

“It certainly is an encouraging step,” said Pavel Molchanov, oil company analyst with Raymond James. “By eliminating the overhang of the criminal litigation, it is another step in clearing up BP’s legal framework as it relates to Macondo.”

POTENTIAL LIABILITY


BP has sold over $30 billion worth of assets to fund the costs of the spill. Matching that, it has already spent about $14 billion on clean-up costs and paid out, or agreed to pay out, a further $16 billion on compensation and claims. The disaster has dragged it from second to a distant fourth in the ranking of top western world oil companies by value.

In an August filing, the Justice Department said “reckless management” of the Macondo well “constituted gross negligence and willful misconduct” which it intended to prove at a civil trial set to begin in New Orleans in February 2013.

Negligence is a central issue to BP’s potential liability. A gross negligence finding could nearly quadruple the civil damages owed by BP under the Clean Water Act to $21 billion in a straight-line calculation.

Still unresolved is potential liability faced by Swiss-based Transocean Ltd, owner of the Deepwater Horizon vessel, and Halliburton Co, which provided cementing work on the well that U.S. investigators say was flawed. Both companies were not immediately available for comment.

According to the Justice Department, errors made by BP and Transocean in deciphering a pressure test of the Macondo well are a clear indication of gross negligence.

“That such a simple, yet fundamental and safety-critical test could have been so stunningly, blindingly botched in so many ways, by so many people, demonstrates gross negligence,” the government said in its August filing.

Transocean disclosed in September that it is in discussions with the Justice Department to pay $1.5 billion to resolve civil and criminal claims.

BP has already announced an uncapped class-action settlement with private plaintiffs that the company estimates will cost $7.8 billion to resolve litigation brought by over 100,000 individuals and businesses claiming economic and medical damages from the spill.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

FDNY debuts new fire simulator for blazes at…

The New York City Fire Department christened its newest, state-of-the-art, custom-built simulator at its training academy on Randall's Island Tuesday.

Local

Bronx cop saves baby who stopped breathing

A Bronx police officer is credited with saving the life of a 2-month-old baby who stopped breathing Tuesday morning. Police Officer Johnny Castillo, 38, was…

Local

Brewer celebrates Women's Equality Day with voter pledge

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer celebrated Women’s Equality Day Tuesday by pledging to register at least five women voters before the Oct. 10 deadline. Brewer…

Local

NYPD looking for lewd D train rider

The NYPD is enlisting the public’s help to find a man they say performed a lewd act on the D train Saturday evening. The incident…

Television

'Pretty Little Liars' recap: Season 5, Episode 12,…

If you've wondered whether Ali and Bethany knew each other, you got an answer tonight: Yes, and in a very tangled way. But many lingering…

Entertainment

Cymbals Eat Guitars Have Everything to 'LOSE'

At its most basic level, a rock band can be thought of as a family, a group of people selflessly devoted to a cause. When…

Entertainment

"Bachelor in Paradise" recap: Episode 4, 'Week Four'

Some things are hard to watch in a “Human Centipede” sort of way. Other things in an “American History X” sort of way. Does “Bachelor…

Movies

Fall Movie Preview: 10 films to see this…

Despite being awards season, the next four months bring a glut of remakes, rehashes and sequels. Here are 10 that should be better worth your time.

College

When are 2014 college football playoffs? (Schedule, date,…

When and where are 2014 college football playoffs? A look at the schedule, date, TV, time for the semi-finals at championship game.

NFL

Dimitri Patterson suspended only for rest of preseason…

Dimitri Patterson ended up getting just a slap on the wrist.

Sports

Eugenie Bouchard excited for 'rowdy' fans at US…

Eugenie Bouchard is sure to endear herself to New York's tennis faithful as she tries to win her first grand slam title across the next two weeks.

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: Angels and A's still at…

MLB Power Rankings: Angels and A's still at top, Nationals climb

Wellbeing

Who is having the most orgasms?

  Single lesbians report having orgasms more often than heterosexual women but both gay and straight men still come out on top of the climax…

Home

Jonathan Adler shares his tips for a great…

Jonathan Adler took a break from boogie boarding at his beach house to tell us how to keep that Labor Day party festive.

Travel

Most popular Labor Day weekend destinations

Priceline.com released its Top 20 destinations for the end of summer, including Labor Day weekend. If you’re heading to any of these spots, expect a…

Wellbeing

Working your way to type 2 diabetes: Job…

When it comes to type 2 diabetes, a stressful job can be as risky for your health as a bad diet and no exercise. A…