- (Photo: AP Photo / Alastair Grant)
On Tuesday, a federal judge signed off on an agreement in which British Petroleum agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter charges and other criminal penalties for the oil rig explosion and subsequent spill that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance ruled that the plea deal was justifiable with the understanding that if the case would have been heard at trial, a smaller fine could have resulted.
BP had previously agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter and for misleading a congressional committee over the exact amount of oil that escaped into the gulf. Researchers had said that more than 200 million gallons of oil leaked into the ocean and impacted wildlife in the region.
As part of the criminal settlement, BP will pay $1.3 billion in fines, which will turn out to be the largest corporate penalty ever levied in United States history.
"BP knows there is nothing we can say to diminish their loss," Luke Keller, BP America's vice president, read in a statement. "The lives lost and those forever changed will stay with us. We are truly sorry."
Roy Wyatt Kemp, of Jonesville, La., died in the explosion, but his wife, Courtney Kemp-Robertson, said that the oil company gambled with people's lives in order to cut corners and increase profits.
"By cutting corners, they gambled with the lives of 126 crew members to save a few dollars," she told the Associated Press. "They gambled and you lost."
Even with the news of the approved settlement, the oil giant still has to contend with the civil claims filed by the federal government and could still be liable to cover more damages to the local environment.
BP had previously agreed to a separate settlement with residents and business owners in the gulf region with estimates of those payouts nearing $8 billion.