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Transocean To Pay $1.4 Billion In Gulf Oil Spill Settlement

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Transocean To Pay $1.4 Billion In Gulf Oil Spill Settlement


Transocean To Pay $1.4 Billion In Gulf Oil Spill Settlement

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

The Justice Department has announced a big settlement with the company that owned the Deepwater Horizon oil rig out in the Gulf of Mexico. Transocean will pay $1.4 billion to settle civil and criminal charges over the massive oil spill from that rig in 2010. A Transocean unit also agreed to plead guilty to violating the Clean Water Act.

Transocean is a Swiss company. The deal adds to the four-and-a-half billion dollar settlement with BP, which leased the rig from Transocean.

NPR's justice correspondent Carrie Johnson joins us now. And, Carrie, what does the Justice Department say Transocean did wrong and what did the company acknowledge today?

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: The heart of the matter, Robert, is that 11 workers died on that Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20th, 2010. And the Justice Department says Transocean acted negligently by, in the process of securing the oil well, moving ahead with some maneuvers in the face of clear signs that there was danger, and that oil and gas may have been leaking out of that well.

Transocean, also as you mentioned, acknowledged committing a misdemeanor criminal violation of the Clean Water Act. But there were no felony criminal charges in the settlement, no manslaughter charges in this settlement. And no individuals at Transocean were charged, unlike in the BP case you mentioned earlier. That's been a little bit controversial today.

SIEGEL: Where is that $1.4 billion going to go?

JOHNSON: Well, about $300 million of the criminal penalties are going to be going to restoration of the Gulf and trying to prevent future oil spills. Four hundred billion dollars are criminal fines, penalties. Another one billion are civil penalties. And much of that money is going to go to projects in the Gulf States under a law Congress passed in 2012 called the RESTORE Act.

SIEGEL: Well, is this the end of the federal case over this spill? Or if not, what happens next?

JOHNSON: It's the end for Transocean. Transocean pretty much has resolved a lot of the uncertainty hanging over it with this deal today, even though a federal judge still has to sign off on the settlement agreement.

Robert, but it's not the end for BP, who's always been the whale in this story. BP is still trying to settle with the Justice Department some huge remaining civil claims, over its violations - alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act. That law deals with ongoing damage to natural resources in the Gulf - to fish, to wildlife, to birds, and to the water and soil.

That case is scheduled to go to trial in New Orleans on February 25th. The company and the Justice Department will be engaged in negotiations, feverish negotiations, potentially right up to that date.

SIEGEL: OK. Thank you, Carrie.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Carrie Johnson.

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