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Judge OKs $4B BP oil spill criminal settlement

By MICHAEL KUNZELMAN Published: January 30, 2013
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Courtney Kemp-Robertson, whose 27-year-old husband, Roy Wyatt Kemp, of Jonesville, La., died on the rig, said workers had referred to it as the “well from hell” before the explosion.

“By cutting corners, they gambled with the lives of 126 crew members to save a few dollars,” she told the judge before turning to address Keller. “They gambled and you lost.”

A series of government investigations have blamed the April 20, 2010, blowout on time-saving, cost-cutting decisions by BP and its partners on the drilling project.

Vance told victims' relatives who were in court that she read their “truly gut-wrenching” written statements and factored their words into her decision. She also said she believes BP executives should have personally apologized to family members long before Tuesday's hearing.

“I think BP should have done that out of basic humanity,” she said.

BP also has separately agreed to a settlement with lawyers for Gulf Coast residents and businesses who claim the spill cost them money. BP estimates the deal with private attorneys will cost the company roughly $7.8 billion.

In a court filing before the hearing, attorneys for BP and the Justice Department argued that the plea agreement imposes “severe corporate punishment” and will deter BP and other deep-water drilling companies from allowing another disaster to occur.

The Justice Department has reached a separate settlement with rig owner Transocean Ltd. that resolves the government's civil and criminal claims over the Swiss-based company's role in the disaster.

Transocean agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of violating the Clean Water Act and pay $1.4 billion in civil and criminal penalties. U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo has scheduled a Feb. 14 hearing to decide whether to accept that criminal settlement. A different judge will decide whether to accept Transocean's civil settlement.

Many relatives of rig workers who died in the blast submitted written statements that were critical of BP's deal. Vance, however, said she couldn't get involved in plea negotiations and only could impose a sentence that adheres to the agreed-upon terms if she accepted it.

Also killed were Aaron Dale “Bubba” Burkeen, 37, of Philadelphia, Miss.; Donald Clark, 49, of Newellton, La.; Stephen Ray Curtis, 40, of Georgetown, La.; Karl Kleppinger Jr., 38, of Natchez, Miss.; Keith Blair Manuel, 56, of Gonzales, La.; Dewey A. Revette, 48, of State Line, Miss.; Shane M. Roshto, 22, of Liberty, Miss.; and Adam Weise, 24, Yorktown, Texas.

In other criminal cases, four current or former BP employees have been indicted. BP rig supervisors Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine are charged with manslaughter, accused of repeatedly disregarding abnormal high-pressure readings that should have been glaring indications of trouble just before the blowout.

David Rainey, BP's former vice president of exploration for the Gulf of Mexico, was charged with withholding information from Congress about the amount of oil that was gushing from the well.

Former BP engineer Kurt Mix was charged with deleting text messages about the company's spill response.


Read the rest of the story on Oklahoman.com
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