United States v. Transocean Deepwater Inc.
Court Docket Number: 13-cr-001 -JTM-SS
Before the Honorable Jane Triche Milazzo, Courtroom C224, United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Federal Courthouse Building, 500 Poydras Street, New Orleans, LA 70130.
On February 14, 2013, Judge Milazzo accepted Transocean’s guilty plea for its illegal conduct leading to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and sentenced the company to pay $400 million in criminal fines and penalties. Transocean was also sentenced to five years of probation – the maximum term of probation permitted by law. During the guilty plea and sentencing proceeding, Judge Milazzo found, among other things, that the sentence appropriately reflects Transocean’s role in the offense conduct, and that the criminal payments directed to the National Academy of Sciences and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation are appropriately designed to help remedy the harm to the Gulf of Mexico caused by Transocean’s actions. The judge also noted that the fines and five year probationary period provide just punishment and adequate deterrence. The press release on the Transocean plea and sentencing can be viewed at http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2013/February/13-ag-199.html.
Transocean pleaded guilty to an information, charging the company with one count of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. § 1319(c)(1)(A) and 33 U.S.C. § 1321(b)(3)). In pleading, Transocean admitted that members of its crew onboard the Deepwater Horizon, acting at the direction of BP’s “Well Site Leaders” or “company men,” were negligent in failing investigate fully clear indications that the Macondo well was not secure and that oil and gas were flowing into the well. A separate proposed civil consent decree, which resolves the United States’ civil CWA penalty claims, imposes a record $1 billion civil Clean Water Act penalty, and requires significant measures to improve performance and prevent recurrence, is pending before U.S. District Judge Carl J. Barbier of the Eastern District of Louisiana.
According to court documents, Transocean provided an offshore drilling unit and crew to implement BP Exploration and Production Inc.’s (BP) drilling plan for the Macondo well, which was located approximately 48 miles from the Louisiana shoreline. As part of the drilling, Transocean, along with BP, had a duty to maintain control of the well, including responsibilities to conduct safe drilling and rig operations; to ensure the safety of personnel onboard; and to prevent accidents. Court documents reveal that between April 2010 and July 2010, Transocean negligently discharged and caused to be discharged oil in connection with activities under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and which affected natural resources.
The criminal resolution, which is the second-largest environmental crime recovery in U.S. history, following the sentence imposed on BP, is structured to directly benefit the Gulf region. Under the order entered by the court, $150 million of the $400 million criminal recovery is dedicated to acquiring, restoring, preserving, and conserving, in consultation with appropriate state and other resource managers, the marine and coastal environments, ecosystems, and bird and wildlife habitat in the Gulf of Mexico and bordering states harmed by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This portion of the criminal recovery will also be directed to significant barrier island restoration and/or river diversion off the coast of Louisiana to further benefit and improve coastal wetlands affected by the spill. An additional $150 million will be used to fund improved oil spill prevention and response efforts in the Gulf through research, development, education, and training. In addition, a separate proposed civil consent decree, which resolves the civil Clean Water Act violations, imposes a record $1 billion Clean Water Act penalty, and requires significant measures to improve performance and prevent recurrence, is pending.
Related Cases: On January 29, 2013, Judge Sarah S. Vance accepted the plea agreement reached with the government in which BP pleaded guilty to a 14 count information charging BP with felony manslaughter, environmental crimes and obstruction of Congress and agreed to pay $4 billion in criminal fines and penalties. For more information on the BP Exploration and Production, Inc. case, go to the case page at http://www.justice.gov/criminal/vns/caseup/bpexploration.html.
In addition, also pending in the Eastern District of Louisiana, Robert M. Kaluza and Donald J. Vidrine are charged with 11 felony counts of seaman’s manslaughter, 11 felony counts of involuntary manslaughter and one violation of the Clean Water Act and are awaiting trial. If convicted, Kaluza and Vidrine each face a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison on each seaman’s manslaughter count, up to eight years in prison on each involuntary manslaughter count, and up to a year in prison on the Clean Water Act count. In a separate indictment, David I. Rainey, 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, has been charged with obstruction of Congress and making false statements to law enforcement officials. If convicted, Rainey faces a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison on each count.