HOUSTON — A federal judge in New Orleans approved on Thursday Transocean's agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge and pay $400 million in criminal penalties for its role in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil well blowout that left 11 workers dead and resulted in a yearlong moratorium on deepwater drilling.
The Switzerland-based owner and operator of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig was charged with negligently discharging oil into the gulf.
"I believe the plea agreement is reasonable and is accepted," said Judge Jane Triche Milazzo of United States District Court. No witnesses came to court to object to the agreement, and Judge Milazzo said she received no letters of opposition.
Transocean's criminal fine is the second highest assessed for an environmental disaster, but it pales in comparison with the $1.26 billion in criminal fines that BP was assessed for the same accident, which spewed millions of barrels of crude oil into the gulf, fouling hundreds of miles of beaches in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
The judge's action effectively closes the book on prosecutions of Transocean, but the company must still settle with a plaintiffs' steering committee representing more than 100,000 people and businesses claiming damages.
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