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Attorney General Eric Holder Speaks at the BP Press Conference


New Orleans, LA
United States

Good afternoon. I’m honored to join with Associate Attorney General Tony West; Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Director Robert Khuzami, of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement; John Buretta, head of the Deepwater Horizon Task Force; and many of the Task Force’s members – in announcing the latest steps forward in our ongoing efforts to achieve justice for those whose lives, and livelihoods, were impacted by the largest environmental disaster in our nation’s history – and to hold accountable those who bore responsibility for this tragedy.

Today, in U.S. District Court here in the Eastern District of Louisiana, the Department filed a 14-count information charging BP with 11 counts of felony manslaughter, one count of felony obstruction of Congress, and violations of the Clean Water and Migratory Bird Treaty Acts in connection with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that began in April 2010. BP has agreed to plead guilty to all 14 criminal charges – admitting responsibility for the deaths of 11 people and the events that led to an unprecedented environmental catastrophe. The company also has agreed to pay $4 billion in fines and penalties.

This marks both the single largest criminal fine – more than $1.25 billion – and the single largest total criminal resolution – $4 billion – in the history of the United States. It stands as a testament to the hard work of countless investigators, attorneys, support staff members, and other personnel – from the Deepwater Horizon Task Force and a range of federal, state, and local agencies – who have worked tirelessly to advance a complex and wide-ranging investigation that began even before the oil well was capped. And it constitutes a major achievement toward fulfilling a promise that I made here in New Orleans, along with my colleagues, nearly two years ago: to engage with our partners and counterparts to determine the causes of this disaster; to respond to its consequences; to seek justice on behalf of its victims; and to enable Gulf Coast residents to continue to recover and rebuild.

To this end, under the terms of the agreement we announce today, about $2.4 billion of the criminal recovery funds will be dedicated to environmental restoration, preservation, and conservation efforts throughout this region – including barrier-island creation and river diversion projects right here in Louisiana. An additional $350 million will aid in the development of state-of-the art oil spill prevention and response technologies, education, research, and training. And more than $1 billion will go to the U.S. Coast Guard’s Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, to be available for cleanup – and compensation for those affected by – oil spills in the Gulf and throughout the United States.

As part of its guilty plea, BP will retain a monitor – for four years – who will oversee safety, risk management and equipment maintenance in relation to deepwater drilling in the Gulf, as well as an independent auditor who will conduct annual reviews to ensure compliance with the terms of this agreement. The company will also hire an ethics monitor to improve its code of conduct and foster robust cooperation with the government.

There can be no question that this historic announcement represents a critical step forward – and underscores the Justice Department’s determination to stand with Gulf Coast communities. In February, this same commitment led the Department to reach a partial settlement – totaling $90 million – with MOEX Offshore, related to that company’s Clean Water Act liability for the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Approximately $45 million of this total will go directly to the Gulf, in the form of penalties or expedited environmental projects.

But our work is far from over. In the trips that my colleagues and I have made to the Gulf Coast since the Deepwater Horizon spill, we’ve seen the damage – to lives and businesses, as well as coastal areas and wetlands – that this tragedy has inflicted. We understand the tremendous costs, both economic and environmental, that have been associated with this disaster. And we’ve been inspired by the resilience displayed by each and every Gulf Coast resident who’s been affected.

That’s why I want to be absolutely clear that today’s resolution does not mark the end of our efforts. In fact, our criminal investigation remains ongoing – and we’ll continue to follow all credible leads and pursue any charges that are warranted.

In fact, in addition to the charges filed against BP, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging the two highest-ranking BP supervisors who were on board the Deepwater Horizon on the day of the explosion with 23 criminal counts – including 11 counts of seaman’s manslaughter, 11 counts of involuntary manslaughter, and alleged violations of the Clean Water Act. The grand jury also charged 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 – with hiding information from Congress and allegedly lying to law enforcement officials.

These and other matters remain open, including a separate civil action that’s pending in federal court here in New Orleans. We’re looking forward to the trial – which is scheduled to begin in February of next year – in which we intend to prove that BP was grossly negligent in causing the oil spill. In that lawsuit, we are seeking civil penalties and a judgment that BP and others are liable for removal costs and natural resource damages – exposure that could amount to billions of dollars. Though we have been unable to date to resolve the civil case, we remain as determined as ever to hold those responsible accountable. In addition, my colleagues and I are firmly committed to combating oil-spill fraud by investigating and prosecuting those who attempt to reap criminal profits from such a terrible tragedy.

Once again, I want to thank each of the Task Force members, Justice Department leaders, local officials, critical agency partners, and Gulf Coast residents who have contributed to this work and made today’s historic announcement possible. And now, I’d like to turn things over to another key leader – Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer – who will provide additional details about today’s action.

Updated August 18, 2015