BP executives indicted in gulf disaster

Nov. 15, 2012 at 4:26 PM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- Two BP executives have been charged with involuntary manslaughter and a third with obstruction of Congress, indictments unsealed in New Orleans Thursday said.

In addition, BP Exploration and Production Inc. has agreed to plead guilty to felony manslaughter and environmental crimes, the U.S. Justice Department said.

The company also agreed to plead guilty to obstruction of Congress linked to the Deepwater Horizon incident, the department said.

BP agreed to pay a record $4 billion in criminal fines for the April 2010 blowout of its oil rig, which dumped millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, causing extensive environmental damage. It took three months to cap the well.

A 14-count information, with notice of the agreement, was filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana.

"The $4 billion in penalties and fines is the single largest criminal resolution in the history of the United States and constitutes a major achievement toward fulfilling a promise that the Justice Department made nearly two years ago to respond to the consequences of this epic environmental disaster and seek justice on behalf of its victims," U.S. Attorney General Holder said in a statement. "We specifically structured this resolution to ensure that more than half of the proceeds directly benefit the Gulf Coast region so that residents can continue to recover and rebuild."

In addition to the resolution of charges against BP, Robert M. Kaluza, 62, of Henderson, Nev., and Donald J. Vidrine, 65, of Lafayette, La. -- the highest-ranking BP supervisors on board the Deepwater Horizon on April 20, 2010 -- are alleged to have engaged in negligent and grossly negligent conduct in a 23-count indictment charging violations of the federal involuntary manslaughter and seaman's manslaughter statutes and the Clean Water Act, the department said.

David I. Rainey, 58, of Houston -- a former BP executive who served as a deputy incident commander and BP's second-highest ranking representative at Unified Command during the spill response -- is charged with obstruction of Congress and making false statements to law enforcement officials.

The criminal claims arise from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The settlement still has to undergo federal judicial review, and would not affect any civil claims made against BP for the Deepwater Horizon disaster, CNNMoney reported.

Tony Hayward, BP's embattled chief executive officer, was forced to resign and BP shares plummeted.

BP already reached a $7.8 billion settlement with private-sector victims.

In September, the Justice Department accused BP of gross negligence in a federal court filing, a finding that would expand the company's liability.

In a statement issued Thursday, BP stuck to its spread-the-blame response, contending there were many factors that contributed to the oil platform explosion.

"Today's agreement is consistent with BP's position in the ongoing civil litigation that this was an accident resulting from multiple causes, involving multiple parties, as found by other official investigations."

Transocean, the owner-operator of the rig, also has unresolved liability issues. In its September filing, the Justice Department said Transocean also was guilty of gross negligence.

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