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BP Pleads Guilty to 14 Criminal Charges in Deepwater Horizon Disaster

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Thursday it was announced that British Petroleum (BP) has agreed to plead guilty to 14 criminal violations of federal law including manslaughter that contributed and led to the Deepwater Horizon explosion which killed 11 people and flooded the Gulf of Mexico with millions of barrels of crude oil resulting in 2010 being a disaster for both the Alabama tourist and fishing industries……a disaster many small businesses still have not recovered from.

US Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer with the DOJ’s Criminal Division said, “The explosion of the rig was a disaster that resulted from BP’s culture of privileging profit over prudence. We hope that BP’s acknowledgment of its misconduct – through its agreement to plead guilty to 11 counts of felony manslaughter – brings some measure of justice to the family members of the people who died onboard the rig.”

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said, “Today’s announcement that BP has agreed to plead guilty to 14 criminal charges under Federal law moves us one step closer to getting justice for the citizens of Alabama and the entire Gulf Coast. BP’s criminal acts levied economic and environmental damages of historic proportions upon Alabama, and these damages are not covered under today’s agreement. Accordingly, in my role as the States’ Coordinating Counsel, I will continue devoting my time to holding BP and the other responsible parties accountable for their acts, and I look forward to presenting Alabama’s case that BP was grossly negligent when we have our day in court.”

US Attorney General Eric Holder said, “The $4 billion in penalties and fines is the single largest criminal resolution in the history of the United States and constitutes a major achievement toward fulfilling a promise that the Justice Department made nearly two years ago to respond to the consequences of this epic environmental disaster and seek justice on behalf of its victims, We specifically structured this resolution to ensure that more than half of the proceeds directly benefit the Gulf Coast region so that residents can continue to recover and rebuild.”

US Representative Jo Bonner (R) from Mobile said, “Today’s announced criminal settlement between BP and the Justice Department represents but a down payment in the oil company’s obligation to mitigate the environmental and economic damage it unleashed on the Gulf Coast more than two years ago. Furthermore, I am pleased that BP agreed to accept criminal responsibility for the deaths of 11 people and the events that led to the disaster.

Rep. Bonner said, “The criminal settlement is the first phase in the ongoing settlement negotiations between BP and the federal government that will eventually include damages under the Clean Water Act. BP must not mistake the Justice Department’s agreement to these criminal penalties from the 2010 spill as a signal that pending civil penalties under the Clean Water Act will be any less severe. “

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Rep. Bonner said, “When Attorney General Holder personally informed me of the settlement today he gave his assurances that the Justice Department would vigorously pursue further civil penalties under the Clean Water Act which is subject to the RESTORE Act. I have made clear to the Attorney General that anything less would be unacceptable to our coastal communities.”

The DOJ is alleging that Robert M. Kaluza, 62, of Henderson, Nev., and Donald J. Vidrine, 65, of Lafayette, La. (the highest-ranking BP supervisors onboard the Deepwater Horizon on April 20, 2010) engaged in negligent and grossly negligent conduct in a 23-count indictment charging violations of the federal involuntary manslaughter and seaman’s manslaughter statutes and the Clean Water Act.

The DOJ is also charging that David I. Rainey, 58, of Houston (a former BP executive who served as a Deputy Incident Commander and BP’s second-highest ranking representative at Unified Command during the spill response) obstructed Congress and made false statements to law enforcement officials about the amount of oil that was being released by the Maconda oil spill following the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon. A grand jury in the Eastern District of Louisiana has returned indictments against Kaluza, Vidrine and Rainey.

The DOJ statement said, “According to court documents, on April 20, 2010, while stationed at the Macondo well site in the Gulf of Mexico, the Deepwater Horizon rig experienced an uncontrolled blowout and related explosions. In agreeing to plead guilty, BP has admitted that the two highest-ranking BP supervisors onboard the Deepwater Horizon, known as BP’s “Well Site Leaders” or “company men,”negligently caused the deaths of 11 men and the resulting oil spill. The information details that, on the evening of April 20, the two supervisors, Kaluza and Vidrine, observed clear indications that the Macondo well was not secure and that oil and gas were flowing into the well. Despite this, BP’s well site leaders chose not to take obvious and appropriate steps to prevent the blowout. As a result of their conduct, control of the Macondo well was lost, resulting in catastrophe.”

If convicted Kaluza and Vidrine could each receive up to ten years in prison for each of the 11 seamen’s deaths plus one year for the Clear Water Act violation.

The DOJ written statement said, “As part of its plea agreement, BP has admitted that, through Rainey, it withheld documents and provided false and misleading information in response to the U.S. House of Representatives’ request for flow-rate information. Among other things, BP admitted that Rainey manipulated internal estimates to understate the amount of oil flowing from the well and withheld data that contradicted BP’s public estimate of 5,000 barrels of oil per day. BP has also admitted that, at the same time Rainey was preparing his manipulated estimates, BP’s internal engineering response teams were using sophisticated methods that generated significantly higher estimates.

The Flow Rate Technical Group, consisting of government and independent scientists, later concluded that more than 60,000 barrels per day were leaking into the Gulf during the relevant time, contrary to BP’s representations to Congress.”

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Rainey is charged with one count of obstruction of Congress and one count of making false statements to law enforcement officials. If convicted of both counts Rainey faces a maximum of ten years in prison.

BP Exploration and Production Inc. is pleading guilty to 11 counts of felony manslaughter, one count of felony obstruction of Congress, and criminal violations of both the Clean Water Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. BP has agreed to pay $4 billion in criminal fines and penalties. The company still has to negotiate a settlement in the civil case.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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