BP, the British oil company, said Thursday that it would pay $4.5 billion in fines and other payments to the government and plead guilty to 14 criminal charges in connection with the giant oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico two years ago.
The payments include $4 billion related to the criminal charges and $525 million to securities regulators, the company said in a statement. As part of the settlement, BP agreed to plead guilty to 11 felony counts of misconduct or neglect related to the deaths of 11 people in the Deepwater Horizon accident in April 2010, which released millions of barrels of oil into the gulf over the course of the next few months.
The Justice Department also filed criminal charges against three BP employees Thursday.
The government charged the top BP officers aboard the drilling rig, Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine, with manslaughter in connection with each of the men who died, alleging that they were negligent in supervising tests before the well blowout and explosion that destroyed the rig.
Prosecutors also charged BP’s former vice president for exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, David Rainey, with obstruction of Congress and making false statements about the rate at which oil was spilling from the well.
“All of us at BP deeply regret the tragic loss of life caused by the Deepwater Horizon accident as well as the impact of the spill on the Gulf coast region," Robert Dudley, BP’s chief executive, said in a statement. “From the outset, we stepped up by responding to the spill, paying legitimate claims and funding restoration efforts in the Gulf. We apologize for our role in the accident, and as today’s resolution with the U.S. government further reflects, we have accepted responsibility for our actions."
While the settlement dispels one dark cloud that has hovered over BP since the spill, others remain. BP is still subject to other claims, including billions of dollars in federal civil claims and claims for damages to natural resources.
In particular, BP noted that the settlement does not resolve what is potentially the largest penalty related to the spill: fines under the Clean Water Act. The potential fine for the spill under the act is $1,100 to $4,300 a barrel spilled. That means the fine could be as much as $21 billion.
In addition to the 11 felonies related to the men killed in the accident, the company agreed to plead guilty to one misdemeanor violation of the Clean Water Act and one misdemeanor violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
BP also acknowledged that it had provided inaccurate information to the public early on about the rate at which oil was gushing from the well.