Transocean fined $400 million for Macondo well incident

Transocean Offshore Inc. pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming from the 2010 Macondo deepwater well incident and agreed to pay $400 million in criminal fines and penalties, US Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. announced on Feb. 14.

Holder said the amount is the second-largest environmental crime recovery in US history, second only to the $4 billion criminal sentence imposed on BP Exploration & Production Inc. in connection with the incident. The Apr. 20, 2010, fire and explosion killed 11 people and destroyed the offshore drilling contractor’s Deepwater Horizon semisubmersible rig.

The rig’s connection lines to the well ruptured as it sank, creating a massive crude oil spill that took months to control, contain, and clean up. “Most of the $400 million criminal recovery will go toward protecting, restoring, and rebuilding the Gulf Coast region,” Holder said.

Judge Jane Triche Milazzo, of US District Court for Eastern Louisiana, accepted Transocean’s guilty plea of violating the federal Clean Water Act.

She found, during sentencing, that the fine and other conditions appropriately reflect Transocean’s role in the incident, and that the criminal payments directed to the National Academy of Sciences and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation are appropriately designed to help remedy the resulting harm to the Gulf of Mexico.

Imposed probation

Milazzo also sentenced Transocean to 5 years’ probation under a Jan. 3 plea agreement the company reached with DOJ.

During the Feb. 14 guilty plea proceeding, Transocean admitted that members of its crew onboard the Deepwater Horizon, acting at the direction of BP’s well site leaders, known as “company men,” were negligent in failing to investigate fully clear indications that the Macondo well was not secure and that oil and gas were flowing into the well, according to DOJ.

It said a separate proposed civil consent decree, which resolves the US’s civil CWA penalty claims, imposes a record $1 billion civil CWA penalty, and requires significant measures to improve performance and prevent recurrence, is pending before US District Judge Carl J. Barbier of Louisiana’s Eastern District.

Transocean had no additional comment beyond its filings and what its attorneys said in court, a spokesman told OGJ on Feb. 15.

Contact Nick Snow at

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