Oil giant BP agrees to pay a $4.5bn (£2.8bn) settlement to authorities over the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico off the US coast.
BP will pay the fine over six years after reaching a deal with the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that has seen it plead guilty to 14 criminal charges relating to the oil rig accident in 2010, which killed 11 workers and spilled millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
Bob Dudley, chief executive of BP, said: “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.”
The Deepwater Horizon rig, 50 miles off the Louisiana coast, sank after the April 2010 explosion.
The well on the sea floor spewed an estimated 206 million gallons of crude oil, soiling sensitive tidal estuaries and beaches, killing wildlife and shutting vast areas of the Gulf to commercial fishing.
The spill exposed lax government oversight and led to a temporary ban on deepwater drilling while officials and the oil industry studied the risks, worked to make it safer and developed better disaster plans.
BP’s environmentally friendly image was tarnished, and independent gas station owners who fly the BP flag claimed they lost business from customers who were upset over the spill. BP chief executive Tony Hayward stepped down after the company’s repeated gaffes, including his statement at the height of the crisis: “I’d like my life back.”
The cost of BP’s spill far surpassed the Exxon Valdez spill off Alaska in 1989. Exxon ultimately settled with the U.S. government for $1bn, which would be about $1.8bn today.
The government and plaintiffs’ attorneys also sued Transocean Ltd, the Deepwater Horizon rig’s owner, and cement contractor Halliburton, but a string of pretrial rulings by a federal judge undermined BP’s legal strategy to pin blame on them.