FILE - In an April 21, 2010 file aerial photo taken in the Gulf of Mexico more than 50 miles southeast of Venice, La., the Deepwater Horizon oil rig is seen burning. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)
Associated Press Release: Defense lawyers say BP rig workers are scapegoats
New Orleans, LA (AP) -November 16, 2012 - While BP has resolved a sweeping criminal probe of its role in the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, two company employees charged in the deaths of 11 rig workers claim the Justice Department is trying to make them scapegoats.
Attorneys for the highest-ranking BP employees aboard the Deepwater Horizon during the deadly explosion vowed to fight manslaughter charges. According to the indictment unsealed Thursday, Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine are accused of disregarding abnormal high-pressure readings that should have been glaring indications of trouble just before the blowout.
Vidrine's attorney, Bob Habans, said in a statement that prosecutors showed poor judgment in charging his 65-year-old client.
Kaluza's attorneys, Shaun Clarke and David Gerger, say their 62-year-old client was a dedicated rig worker who "mourns his fallen co-workers every day."
New Orleans, LA (AP) - November 15, 2012 - Lawyers for two BP oil rig workers say the Justice Department is trying to make scapegoats out of them.
The two were indicted today on federal charges including manslaughter, in the deaths of 11 workers in the rig explosion that led to the Gulf oil spill two and a half years ago.
Another man, a BP official, is charged with obstruction of Congress, for allegedly withholding information on how much oil was spewing from the blown-out well.
BP, meanwhile, has agreed to pay a record $4.5 billion in a settlement with the government. It includes nearly $1.3 billion in fines, the biggest criminal penalty in U.S. history. And Attorney General Eric Holder says much of the money will be used to restore the Gulf.
The settlement may not make much of a dent on the company's finances. BP made a record $25.8 billion in profits last year. And it will be given five years to pay.
The environmental group Greenpeace is criticizing the settlement as a slap on the wrist.
But the company still faces huge additional claims -- including billions of dollars in civil penalties the government is seeking under the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws. And a judge in New Orleans is considering a separate proposed settlement of $7.8 billion between BP and more than 100,000 businesses and individuals who say they were harmed by the spill.
Associated Press Release: BP executive charged with lying to authorities
By Michael Kunzelman
New Orleans, LA (AP) - November 15, 2012 - Two men who worked for BP during the 2010 Gulf oil spill disaster have been charged with manslaughter and a third with lying to federal investigators, according to indictments made public Thursday, hours after BP announced it was paying $4.5 billion in a settlement with the U.S. government over the disaster.
A federal indictment unsealed in New Orleans claims BP well site leaders Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine acted negligently in their supervision of key safety tests performed on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig before the explosion killed 11 workers in April 2010. The indictment says Kaluza and Vidrine failed to phone engineers onshore to alert them of problems in the drilling operation.
Another indictment charges David Rainey, who was BP's vice president of exploration for the Gulf of Mexico, on charges of obstruction of Congress and false statements. The indictment claims the former executive lied to federal investigators when they asked him how he calculated a flow rate estimate for BP's blown-out well in the days after the April 2010 disaster.
Before Thursday, the only person charged in the disaster was a former BP engineer who was arrested in April on obstruction of justice charges. He was accused of deleting text messages about the company's response to the spill.
Earlier in the day, BP PLC said it would plead guilty to criminal charges related to the deaths of 11 workers and lying to Congress.
The day of reckoning comes more than two years after the nation's worst offshore oil spill. The figure includes nearly $1.3 billion in criminal fines -- the biggest criminal penalty in U.S. history -- along with payments to certain government entities.
"We believe this resolution is in the best interest of BP and its shareholders," said Carl-Henric Svanberg, BP chairman. "It removes two significant legal risks and allows us to vigorously defend the company against the remaining civil claims."
The settlement, which is subject to approval by a federal judge, includes payments of nearly $2.4 billion to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, $350 million to the National Academy of Sciences and about $500 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC accused BP of misleading investors by lowballing the amount of crude spewing from the ruptured well.
London-based BP said in a statement that the settlement would not cover any civil penalties the U.S. government might seek under the Clean Water Act and other laws. Nor does it cover billions of dollars in claims brought by states, businesses and individuals, including fishermen, restaurants and property owners.
A federal judge in New Orleans is weighing a separate, proposed $7.8 billion settlement between BP and more than 100,000 businesses and individuals who say they were harmed by the spill.
BP will plead guilty to 11 felony counts of misconduct or neglect of a ship's officers, one felony count of obstruction of Congress and one misdemeanor count each under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Clean Water Act. The workers' deaths were prosecuted under a provision of the Seaman's Manslaughter Act. The obstruction charge is for lying to Congress about how much oil was spilling.
The penalty will be paid over five years. BP made a profit of $5.5 billion in the most recent quarter. The largest previous corporate criminal penalty assessed by the U.S. Justice Department was a $1.2 billion fine imposed on drug maker Pfizer in 2009.