NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A $1.4 billion settlement between the Justice Department and Deepwater Horizon rig owner Transocean Ltd. will pump hundreds of millions of dollars into projects designed to help the Gulf Coast recover from the nation's largest offshore oil spill.
Transocean, which owned the rig that sank after an explosion killed 11 workers and spawned the 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico, agreed Thursday to pay $1 billion in civil penalties and $400 million in criminal penalties and plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of violating the Clean Water Act.
Much of the money will fund environmental-restoration projects and spill-prevention research and training. Congress approved legislation that dedicates 80 percent of the civil penalty for environmental and economic recovery projects in the Gulf states.
"While this small step forward will not bring back the 11 lives that were lost or reverse the extraordinary damages caused by the Deepwater Horizon disaster, it is incremental progress in Transocean making it right," Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said in a statement. "Natural resources damages and response costs are excluded from this agreement. Now the focus remains on BP to fulfill the commitments of their PR campaign to put this tragedy behind us."
The proposed settlement resolves the Justice Department's civil and criminal probes of Transocean's role in the Deepwater Horizon rig disaster. The deal, which is subject to a federal judge's approval, also calls for Transocean to implement a series of operational safety and emergency response improvements on its rigs.
"This resolution of criminal allegations and civil claims against Transocean brings us one significant step closer to justice for the human, environmental and economic devastation wrought by the Deepwater Horizon disaster," Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.
Transocean said it believes the settlement is in the best interest of its shareholders and employees and eliminates "much of the uncertainty associated with the accident."
"This is a positive step forward, but it is also a time to reflect on the 11 men who lost their lives aboard the Deepwater Horizon," the company said in a statement. "Their families continue to be in the thoughts and prayers of all of us at Transocean."
BP PLC, which leased the rig from Transocean, already has agreed to pay a record $4.5 billion in penalties and plead guilty to manslaughter and other criminal charges related to the spill. The deal with BP doesn't resolve the federal government's civil claims against the London-based oil company.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, said the Transocean settlement will dedicate $800 million of the civil penalty and $300 million of criminal penalty to coastal protection and restoration work.