(Washington, DC - January 3, 2013) - According to the terms of the settlement, Transocean will pay a $1 billion civil penalty to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act resulting from the discharge of oil into the Gulf of Mexico from the loss of the Deepwater Horizon and the April 20, 2010 blowout of the Macondo Well, and will additionally perform substantial injunctive relief to improve the safety of Transocean’s oil drilling practices, as well as its oil spill response and preparedness.
On this page:
- Overview of Company
- Health and Environmental Benefits
- Civil Penalty
- Comment Period
- Related Cases
Overview of Company
At the time of the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig into the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, Transocean owned and operated the Deepwater Horizon, including the blow-out preventer and riser. BP Exploration and Production, Inc. (“BP”) contracted with Transocean for the operation of the Deepwater Horizon to drill the Macondo Well. (For more information on the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, see EPA Response to BP Spill in the Gulf). There are four Transocean corporate entities that were involved in the drilling and operation of the Deepwater Horizon and that are covered by this settlement: Transocean Deepwater Inc., Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc., Transocean Holdings LLC, and Triton Asset Leasing GmbH (“the Transocean Defendants”).
The United States filed a complaint on December 15, 2010 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana alleging, among other things, that the Transocean Defendants violated Section 311 of the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. § 1321. The claims alleged against the Transocean Defendants are based on discharges of oil into waters of the United States beginning on April 20, 2010 from the Macondo Well and the Deepwater Horizon, the mobile offshore drilling unit lost in the course of the blowout of the Macondo Well.
Health and Environmental Benefits
The injunctive relief required by the settlement to improve the safety of Transocean's oil drilling practices and to enhance its oil spill preparedness and response are designed both to prevent the likelihood of a future oil spill, and to minimize the adverse effects of a spill if it should happen. Oil spills are known to cause both immediate and long-term harm to human health and ecosystems. Oil prevents oxygen in water and can suffocate wildlife.
Oil emulsions may stick to the gills of fish or coat and destroy algae or other plankton. Floating oil may reduce water exposure to the circulation of oxygen and, in conjunction with emulsified oil, interfere with photosynthesis. Oil slicks can kill birds, contaminate food sources, reduce animal and plant reproduction and contaminate nesting habitats. Oil spills can cause long-term effects years later even if the oil remains in the environment for a relatively short period of time. Petroleum oils can also undergo oxidation and polymerization reactions and can form tars that persist in the environment for years.
As part of the settlement, the Transocean Defendants have agreed to pay a $1 billion civil penalty. Pursuant to the RESTORE Act, 80% of this amount is directed toward Gulf restoration-related activities.
The proposed settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, is subject to a 21-day comment period and final court approval. Information on submitting comment is available at the Department of Justice website.
- On January 3, 2013, the Transocean Defendants agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges and pay a $400 million criminal fine in connection with the blowout of the Macondo Well and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon (PDF) (33 pp, 12MB).
- On November 15, 2012, BP Exploration and Production Inc. agreed to plead guilty to felony manslaughter, environmental crimes and obstruction of Congress and pay a record $4 billion in criminal fines and penalties for its conduct leading to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.
- On February 17, 2012, MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC, a 10% owner of the lease for the Macondo Well at the time of the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, agreed to pay $70 million in civil penalties and to spend $20 million in supplemental environmental projects to preserve land and habitat in several Gulf states.
For more information, contact:
US Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460