WASHINGTON, Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Oil giant BP has been temporarily suspended from new contracts with the federal government, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday.
EPA said it took the action because of BP's "lack of business integrity as demonstrated by the company's conduct with regard to the Deepwater Horizon blowout, explosion, oil spill and response, as reflected by the filing of a criminal information."
Suspensions are a standard when a responsibility question has been raised by action in a criminal case, the federal agency said.
Meanwhile, lawyers for the British oil company appeared before a federal judge in New Orleans Tuesday to answer manslaughter and other criminal charges arising from the deadly oil rig explosion and devastating oil spill, the Houston Chronicle reported.
During a brief arraignment hearing, BP lawyer Mark Filip said the company's board authorized him to enter a not guilty plea as a procedural matter, but that the company still intends to plead guilty later.
U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle scheduled a trial date for Feb. 4, also another procedural matter that would be relevant only if the court doesn't accept a plea agreement, forcing a trial. BP has agreed to pay $4.5 billion to settle the criminal and related Securities and Exchange Commission charges.
Still unresolved are civil fines for the amount of oil that spilled, the Chronicle said. BP can either strike a deal with the Justice Department or go to trial over civil citations. Clean Water Act fines alone could be $21 billion.