2010 saw one of the worst ecological disasters in history as the largest oil spill ever, the Deepwater Horizon disaster, saw millions of gallons of crude oil released into the Gulf of Mexico, causing widespread ecological ruin that, to this day and most likely well into the future, remains a serious issue for the Gulf.
The Deepwater Horizon oil rig, belonging to British Petroleum (BP), spewed toxic crude into the Gulf for a period of 87 days after an explosion that killed 11 rig workers. Expectedly, the oil company was held accountable for the disaster. Now, in a record case, the US Justice Department (DoJ) has meted out a sizeable fine—leveling damages of $4.5 billion on the firm.
The announcement came today after the DoJ leveled criminal charges against the oil company, handing out the largest criminal fine in US history. In addition to paying the sum, BP will also plead guilty to 14 criminal counts and pay a sum of $525 million to the Securities and Exchanges Commission over a period of three years. The $4.5 billion fine will include a criminal fine of $1.26 billion, $2.4 billion to be paid to National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and $350 million to be paid to the National Academy of Sciences over a period of five years.
Accepting the fine, BP apologized for the disaster, with chief executive Bob Dudley saying, "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. From the outset, we stepped up by responding to the spill, paying legitimate claims and funding restoration efforts in the Gulf. We apologise for our role in the accident, and as today's resolution with the US government further reflects, we have accepted responsibility for our actions."
Scrambling to cover its losses, the British oil firm has been selling assets, having already raised a sum of $38.1 billion. Over the past two years, BP, along with partners Halliburton and Transocean, has settled countless lawsuits with other companies or victims of the oil spill. Anadarko and Moex, co-owners of the well, along with contracting company Weatherford, received a settlement of $51 billion, while $7.8 billion was given to the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee. The company will also render $860 million into the Gulf of Mexico compensation fund.
But lawyers representing businesses that have been affected by the oil spill have said BP’s payouts are far from over, saying that the company has not settled with the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, or Florida.