NEW ORLEANS — A former Halliburton manager was charged Thursday with destroying evidence following BP's 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a case that coincides with a guilty plea to a related charge by the Houston-based, oil-field services company.
Anthony Badalamenti, who had been the cementing technology director for Halliburton Energy Services Inc., was charged in federal court with instructing two other employees to delete data during a post-spill review of the cement job on BP's blown-out well.
Halliburton was BP PLC's cement contractor on the drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf in April 2010, killing 11 workers and triggering the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
Badalamenti, 61, of Katy, Texas, is charged in a bill of information, which typically signals that a defendant is cooperating with prosecutors. His attorney, Tai H. Park, declined to comment. Badalamenti is scheduled to be arraigned on Sept. 30.
Also on Thursday, a federal judge accepted a plea agreement that calls for Halliburton to pay a $200,000 fine for a misdemeanor stemming from Badalamenti's alleged conduct.
U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo said she believes the plea agreement is reasonable and agreed with prosecutors and the company that it “adequately reflects the seriousness of the offense.”
Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement that Halliburton's guilty plea and the charge against Badalamenti “mark the latest steps forward in the Justice Department's efforts to achieve justice on behalf of all those affected by the Deepwater Horizon explosion, oil spill, and environmental disaster.”
The plea deal has its critics, however. Allison Fisher, an outreach director for the Public Citizen nonprofit advocacy group, called it a “travesty.”
“Rather than rubber stamp the plea agreement,” she said in a statement, “the court should have rejected the bargain-basement deal because it fails to hold the corporation accountable for its criminal acts and will not deter future corporate crime.”
Unlike BP and rig owner Transocean Ltd., Halliburton was not charged with a crime related to the causes of the disaster. The fine Halliburton agreed to pay is the statutory maximum for the misdemeanor charge of unauthorized destruction of evidence.
The deal announced in July also calls for Halliburton to be on probation for three years and to make a $55 million contribution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, but that payment was not a condition of the deal.