In big news for the Gulf, the Department of Justice announced a plea agreement with Transocean, the owner and operator of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, for their role in the 2010 BP drilling disaster. It's a doozy, with the company pleading guilty to criminal environmental behavior, and agreeing to pay $1.4 billion in fines, penalties and restitution.
I hope this agreement signals a New Years resolution by the Department of Justice to hold every player accountable for the deepwater drilling disaster that is still affecting our coast and communities.
While the figures announced yesterday are impressive, they remain an oily drop in the bucket compared to BP's civil liability of $20b. We are glad to see significant funds directed to environmental restoration of the Gulf, both via the RESTORE Act for civil penalties, and through specific agreements by both parties for the criminal penalties.
GRN has been disappointed, both in this agreement, and in the BP criminal agreement, that money has not been specifically allocated to increase oil industry transparency and community accountability through the creation of a Gulf Regional Citizens Advisory Council, similar to the Prince William Sound RCAC created in Alaska after the Exxon Valdez spill. It's far past time to create such an entity, as our region continues to play the role of energy sacrifice zone for the country, paying costs incurred by the actions of BP, Transocean, and lesser-known oil industry lawbreakers.
Aaron Viles is GRN's Deputy Director. You can follow him on twitter @GulfAaron.