On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 platform workers and resulting in the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. Today BP, the well owner, plead guilty to 14 criminal charges of which 11 were felonies. They also agreed to pay $4.5 billion in fines and other payments to the government. Two BP officials, Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine, were also charged with manslaughter realted to the 11 deaths, alleging that they were negligent in supervising tests before the well blowout and explosion that destroyed the rig. Prosecutors also charged David Rainey, BP’s former vice president for exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, with obstruction of Congress and making false statements about the rate at which oil was spilling from the well.
These fines and payments may be only the beginning, however. BP also may be liable under the Clean Water Act for the oil spilled with potentials fine between $1,100 to $4,300 per barrel spilled. These fines could total as much as $21 billion. Other civil lawsuits are also pending. Thanks to Phil Leon for contributing to this post.