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Topics: BP settlement a boon to conservation group, Breaking Down The BP Settlement: Where Will The Money Go? | ThinkProgress, BP settles criminal charges for $4 billion in spill; supervisors indicted on manslaughter, BP workers charged with manslaughter in deadly Deepwater Horizon Gulf blast, Charges against BP employees test reach of US statute, BP workers head to court over criminal charges in Gulf disaster, Despite Accord, Spill Aftermath Shadows BP, 2 missing, 11 hurt in Gulf oil rig blast tied to workers using torch, Oil platform blast off Louisiana coast claims second fatality, Norway Regulator Tells BP to Implement Safety Measures at Oil Platform

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With so many legitimate environmental groups from which to choose it is a tragedy that a polluter lapdog wolf in an environmental sheep's clothing should be chosen to receive such largesse. It is a travesty that the Justice Department should agree to entrust any environmental care taking to a group group founded by Republicans and with no track record of administering large projects. Mary Landrieu claiming they do good work is further evidence that this group is no friend to the environment.

BP settlement a boon to conservation group

Published: November 16

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation operated on a modest budget in relative obscurity for nearly three decades. Then it won the lottery.

Over the next five years, BP will give the foundation nearly $2.4 billion as part of the $4 billion settlement with the Justice Department announced Thursday stemming from BP’s disastrous 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The decision to steer so much to a single group sparked questions from some invested in the settlement’s outcome, including Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and a few environmentalists.

Landrieu praised that the money was being used “in a creative way to leverage it with private dollars” but expressed concern that the foundation’s board “includes only one person from the Gulf of Mexico. I would have liked to have seen a little more representation from the Gulf Coast, but at least the work they’ve done along the Gulf Coast has been very good.”

The foundation — created in 1984 by Senate Republicans seeking new ways to muster conservation funding in the face of Reagan administration budget cuts — is not an environmental advocacy organization. It receives an annual appropriation of about $15 million from the government, along with other federal grants totaling as much as $45 million, and solicits donations of about $16 million a year from private donors and corporations including Wal-Mart, Shell, Southern Co. and the American Petroleum Institute.

While the group has received money from state and federal criminal cases before, the largest sum it had received before Thursday was about $13 million. Still, it can disburse funds relatively quickly: Upon receiving $5 million from BP on June 20, 2010, less than two months after Deepwater Horizon exploded, the foundation committed it all within a month.

Kert Davies, research director for Greenpeace U.S., said that while the group has done helpful restoration work, it also appears to be “a safe place for corporations to give their money because they’re not going to criticize corporations.”

Shell spokesman Bill Tanner, whose group gives $1 million a year to the foundation, said it has focused on marine habitat projects in the gulf as well as in Alaska’s North Slope and North Aleutian Basin.

There are two heartbreakers in this settlement. One is that most of the money is going to a group which seems vastly more concerned with keeping money flowing in from big oil than with tackling major environmental tasks while the National Academy of Sciences gets a relative pittance despite the fact that they do spectacularly good work.

The other infuriating tragedy is that only a single VP executive is facing criminal charges. The executive suite is where the ultimate decisions are made to short change safety for profit. Without the people who make these unconscionable decisions face serious jail time we will undoubtedly see more Deepwater Horizon types of horror stories and worse in the future.

Breaking Down The BP Settlement: Where Will The Money Go? | ThinkProgress

Breaking Down The BP Settlement: Where Will The Money Go?
By Climate Guest Blogger on Nov 16, 2012 at 9:19 am
by Kiley Kroh

Yesterday, the Justice Department announced BP agreed to plead guilty to 14 criminal charges stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and agreed to pay $4.5 billion in fines and penalties – the largest single criminal fine and largest total criminal resolution in US history. Attorney General Eric Holder emphasized several times that the announcement is only one piece of the government’s ongoing efforts to hold BP fully accountable for the deaths of 11 men and one of the worst environmental disasters in US history.

Here’s a rundown of what the settlement entailed and what lies ahead.

What were the charges?

BP plead guilty to 14 counts: 11 felony counts of misconduct for the 11 workers killed at the rig, one misdemeanor count under the Clean Water Act, one misdemeanor count under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and one felony count of obstruction of Congress.

Three BP employees were also charged, two of them with manslaughter.

Where will the money go?

$2.4 billion will go to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, – an independent, non-profit conservation group chartered by Congress in 1984. The funds will be paid out over a period of five years and be earmarked for environmental restoration and preservation in Gulf states.

$350 million will go to the National Academy of Sciences for oil spill prevention, education, research, and training – also to be paid out over five years.

More than $1 billion will go to the Coast Guard’s Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, overseen by the U.S. Coast Guard to be available to pay for future oil spill cleanup.

The oil giant will also pay $525 million to resolve claims with the Securities and Exchange Commission for misleading its investors regarding the size of the Deepwater Horizon spill.

What additional aspects of BP’s liability have not been resolved?

Yesterday’s settlement was just one step toward determining full liability for the catastrophe, with the largest potential penalties still remaining.

Civil penalties under the Clean Water Act are the largest potential fine, as the company will be charged up to $4,300 per barrel of oil spilled.  Holder indicated that the government will pursue the maximum penalty, which could result in a fine as large as $21 billion.

Federal and state Natural Resource Damages claims also remain outstanding. Historically, these have taken the longest to resolve. In the case of the Exxon Valdez spill, they took more than a decade to settle.

Kiley Kroh is the Associate Director of Ocean Communications at the Center for American Progress.

Eric Holder should not insult the public's intelligence by making the ridiculous claim that even a large fine has the slightest deterrent effect on corporate criminal behavior. As long as fines don't come out of executives' pockets and they have no worries about jail time we can expect nothing but business as usual.

To DOJ's credit, they did manage to file charges against at least one BP VP but it was for telling lies rather than for neglecting worker and environmental safety in favor of higher profits. The public would be better served by simply turning BP's executive suite into an in situ prison and quarantining it as moral disaster zone. - h/t phil33

BP settles criminal charges for $4 billion in spill; supervisors indicted on manslaughter

Thursday, November 15, 2:10 PM

BP has agreed to plead guilty to 14 criminal counts, including manslaughter, and will pay $4 billion over five years in a settlement with the Justice Department over the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the company and Justice Department announced Thursday.

In addition, the London-based oil giant will pay $525 million over three years to settle claims with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which said the company concealed information from investors.

A source says oil giant BP has agreed to pay the largest criminal penalty in U.S. history, totaling billions of dollars, for the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

While the technology required to drill — and cap — an oil well in deep water can be mind-boggling, cleaning up the spill required mostly tedious manual labor.

“This marks both the single largest criminal fine – more than $1.25 billion – and the single largest total criminal resolution... in the history of the United States,” Attorney General Eric Holder said during a news conference in New Orleans. “I hope this sends a clear message to those who would engage in this wanton misconduct that there will be a penalty paid.”

Holder also announced a separate 23-count criminal indictment — including charges of seaman’s and involuntary manslaughter — against the two top-ranking BP supervisors on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig where a blowout occurred April 20, 2010, sinking the rig and killing 11 workers.

Holder also announced an indictment against David Rainey, a BP vice president, for hiding information from Congress and lying to law enforcement officials about the rate at which oil was gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.

“Make no mistake: While the company is guilty, individuals committed these crimes,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer, head of the criminal division. Of the two rig supervisors, Breuer said: “In the face of glaring red flags indicating that the well was not secure, both men allegedly failed to take appropriate action to prevent the blowout.”

The criminal settlement does not cover federal civil claims, including Clean Water Act claims, federal and state claims of damages to natural resources or private civil claims. Settling those would probably cost BP billions of dollars more, and the company said it is “prepared to vigorously defend itself against remaining civil claims.”

But the settlement resolves a variety of criminal charges. BP agreed to plead guilty to 11 felony counts of misconduct or neglect of ships’ officers relating to the loss of 11 lives on the drilling rig that caught fire and sank; one misdemeanor count under the Clean Water Act; one misdemeanor count under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; and one felony count of obstruction of Congress. BP said that the last of those is related to misreporting to a member of Congress the rate at which oil was gushing into the gulf.

Criminal charges against one BP VP is better than none but seems woefully short of what it would take to put the fear of the creator Herself in big oil execs. It tells a sad tale about our pitiful laws that the only charge DOJ has brought against a BP exec is for lying rather than negligently putting worker safety and environment below basement levels of priorities.

Holder says they aren't done with their criminal investigations but I don't hold out a lot of hope that any more higher ups will be charged with anything that risks jail time.

On the plus side I would expect that the families of the workers who died on the rig and the workers who were injured can find some small comfort in the fact that at least some charges have been brought to held BP accountable.

BP workers charged with manslaughter in deadly Deepwater Horizon Gulf blast

November 15, 2012  8:14 PM Updated November 18, 2012 at 8:13 p.m. ET

NEW ORLEANS 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.

Rainey's lawyer said his client did "absolutely nothing wrong." And attorneys for the two rig workers accused the Justice Department of making scapegoats out of them.

"Today's resolution does not - does not - mark the end of our efforts," Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters at an afternoon news conference. "In fact, our criminal investigation remains ongoing, and we'll continue to follow all credible leads and pursue any charges that are warranted."

Earlier in the day, BP PLC said it would plead guilty to criminal charges related to the 11 workers' deaths and lying to Congress.

Al Sunseri, owner of P&J Oyster Company in New Orleans' French Quarter, told CBS Radio News he was pleased about the settlement even though his oyster business is still not the same more than two years later.

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.

Greenpeace blasted the settlement as a slap on the wrist.

"This fine amounts to a rounding error for a corporation the size of BP," the environmental group said.

Nelda Winslette's grandson Adam Weise of Yorktown, Texas, was killed in the blast. She said somebody needs to be held accountable.

"It just bothers me so bad when I see the commercials on TV and they brag about how the Gulf is back, but they never say anything about the 11 lives that were lost. They want us to forget about it, but they don't know what they've done to the families that lost someone," she said.

Sherri Revette, who lost her husband of 26 years, Dewey Revette, 48, of State Line, Miss., said the indictments against the employees brought mixed emotions.

"I'm saddened, but I'm also happy at the same time that they will be prosecuted. I feel for them, of course. You never know what impact your actions will have on others," she said. She added: "If they had made a phone call, who knows what the outcome would have been?"

I don't see that the story makes the case to justify the headline. Instead, it would seem a huge stretch for Vidrine and Kaluza to argue they don't come under the category of "other person employed on any steamboat or vessel."  I just don't see that this one won't be anything but a walk in the park for any competent prosecutor. h/t Yasuragi

Charges against BP employees test reach of US statute

Sunday, November 25, 2012

NEW YORK: Not all manslaughter charges are created equal. If they were, the US Justice Department might have filed just 11 charges when it brought a criminal case against two BP Plc employees last week, one for each of the 11 deaths in the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Instead, the government charged Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine, the two highest-ranking BP supervisors on board the rig in the hours before the 2010 disaster, with 11 counts of involuntary manslaughter and 11 counts of what’s known as seaman’s manslaughter.

The seaman’s manslaughter statute was first passed by Congress in 1838 after a string of deadly steamboat accidents.

The law, which has been modified multiple times since then, was intended to hold captains, engineers and pilots responsible for deaths attributable to their conduct.

The idea behind the law was that those operating a ship have a special responsibility toward passengers in their care. As The Wall Street Journal and others have noted, prosecutors face a lower bar in proving seaman’s manslaughter than they do in ordinary manslaughter cases. Manslaughter charges generally require a finding of gross negligence; seaman’s manslaughter does not.
Here’s what the seaman’s manslaughter statute says: “Every captain, engineer, pilot or other person employed on any steamboat or vessel, by whose misconduct, negligence or inattention to his duties on such vessel the life of any person is destroyed ... shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.”

Vidrine and Kaluza were not captains or engineers of the Deepwater Horizon. The two have been described by investigators, including those who wrote the “Chief Counsel’s Report” on the Deepwater disaster, as “well site leaders.” According to the report, well site leaders served as BP’s “eyes and ears, and made important decisions regarding the course of drilling operations.” As the litigation against Vidrine and Kaluza progresses, a judge may have to decide whether “well site leaders” should fall within the “other person” category covered by the seaman’s manslaughter statute.

Attorneys representing the two Macondo well leaders, Vidrine and Kaluza, and BP VP, Rainey, are saying at this point that they will be going to trial. That may change in the future but it wouldn't seem that the DOJ would have much motivation to offer a plea deal. Decisions make by Vidrine and Kaluza have been highly criticized by experts and looking at the video of the Macondo spewing oil should convince anyone who isn't blind that Rainey lied.

BP, workers head to court over criminal charges in Gulf disaster

Updated 7:32 p.m., Monday, November 26, 2012

BP is preparing to plead guilty to manslaughter and other crimes arising from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico rig explosion and oil spill but isn't expected to do that during an initial appearance today in federal court in New Orleans.

Court appearances also are scheduled this week for three men who were working for the oil giant, and they already are mounting efforts to fight felony charges.

Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle could set trial dates at a hearing Wednesday for well-site leaders Donald Vidrine and Robert Kaluza and former executive David Rainey. Lemelle also might set bail conditions and other restrictions on the defendants, but the workers don't face arrest ahead of time.

Lemelle wrote in a recent filing that his spouse owns Halliburton stock and that he has asked the parties to let him know by Dec. 7 whether he should recuse himself from the case. Halliburton was the cement contractor on BP's Macondo well, which blew out and triggered the spill.

The Justice Department continues to investigate, and other people and companies could be charged.

Federal rules require a trial be set within 70 days from the date a defendant is indicted or first appears in court, whichever is later.

And while a short-term date might be set at the hearing, defense lawyers are likely to argue the case is complex, which would mean any trial could be months or even years away.

“This is as complex a case as I've ever had,” said Kaluza's attorney, Shaun Clarke. “There's no way we could be ready to try this case in 70 days.”

Clarke said his client has no intention of negotiating a plea deal with federal prosecutors.

Vidrine's attorney, Robert Habans, said his client also expects to go to trial.

Rainey's attorney, Reid Weingarten, has indicated that he and partner Brian Heberlig intend to fight the charges.

I'm not sure if BP would bring up the subject of debarment to the press unless they were feeling pretty cocksure that the EPA won't be pursuing the issue despite BP being the poster child for the necessity of having debarment as a tool to protect the environment. If BP is not debarred for its endless string of safety and environmental criminal conduct Congress ought to end the charade and take the debarment law off the books.

Despite Accord, Spill Aftermath Shadows BP

November 16, 2012

LONDON — The deal that BP reached Thursday with the United States is another step toward removing the doubt that has hung over the company and its stock price since the explosion that killed 11 people on the Deepwater Horizon rig in 2010. But it is not the comprehensive settlement that the company and investors were hoping for.

The agreement, which included 14 guilty pleas and $4.5 billion in fines and other payments to be made over five years, almost certainly removes the possibility of further criminal charges. But it still leaves BP vulnerable to larger liabilities, particularly fines for spills under the Clean Water Act.

Depending on whether BP is found grossly negligent, a term that is open to considerable interpretation by courts, BP could be fined $5 billion to $21 billion, or $1,100 to $4,300 a barrel spilled, analysts say. BP took a charge of $3.5 billion in 2010 for potential Clean Water Act claims.

“This is only an interim settlement,” said Stuart Joyner, an analyst at Investec in London. “Until we get the final settlement of civil claims,” he added, the blowout aftermath “is not going away for BP’s management or investors.”

The civil issues are to be decided in a trial in New Orleans scheduled for late February. On Thursday, the United States attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., said, “We’re looking forward to the trial” in which “we intend to prove that BP was grossly negligent in causing the oil spill.”
There is also some risk that BP, because it has admitted a variety of felonies and negligence, may be barred from further contracting with the United States government. In a statement Thursday, the company said, “Under U.S. law, companies convicted of certain criminal acts can be debarred from contracting for the federal government.”

Mr. Gilvary said during the call that any move to ban BP would prompt it to rethink investing in the United States. The company said Thursday that it had “not been advised of the intention of any federal agency to suspend or debar the company in connection with the plea agreement.”

BP said it expected output in the Gulf of Mexico to be flat next year on the so-called core fields it has retained. Thereafter, it expected output to rise steadily.

A person close to BP, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said the company had aimed for a comprehensive settlement but the goal had been hobbled by some American states, particularly Louisiana, which were squabbling over the Clean Water Act proceeds. This person also said that if BP had thought a final settlement was close, it would not have agreed to this partial deal.

There is something seriously amiss with Black Elk's safety guidelines and/or training if welders cut into a pipe full of oil. That's a safety 101 faux pas.

I wonder if the Houston Chronicle bothered interviewing any rig workers before proclaiming Black Elk as a wonderful employer. A company that incurs a hefty fine from an industry captive agency for past bad behavior and its workers making such a fundamental welding safety error doesn't add up to being a good employer in my book. h/t Yasuragi

2 missing, 11 hurt in Gulf oil rig blast tied to workers using torch

11/16/2012 Updated at 5:56 p.m. ET

Coast Guard crews continued searching Saturday evening for two workers missing after an explosion and fire aboard a Gulf of Mexico oil rig on Friday that was apparently triggered by workers using a blow torch to cut a pipe.

Eleven workers on the rig were airlifted to hospitals after the accident some 17 miles southeast of Grand Isle, La. Four of the injured were in critical condition.

The fire was extinguished a few hours after the blast and Coast Guard Capt. Ed Cubanski told reporters that the platform appeared to be structurally sound. Twenty-two people had been aboard the rig at the time of the accident.

It does not appear the incident could lead to a major environmental disaster, added Coast Guard Capt. Peter Gautier.

He said initial reports suggested that the explosion occurred when maintenance workers using a torch cut into a pipe with oil inside.

The owner of the platform is Houston-based Black Elk Energy. On its website, the company stated that this month it was starting to drill the first of 23 new wells in the Gulf of Mexico.

Last Sunday, The Houston Chronicle named Black Elk Energy one of the top small businesses to work for in Houston based on employee surveys.

In August, the oil and gas company was named one of the fastest-growing privately held companies by Inc. Magazine.

Black Elk Energy was investigated last August by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement for an incident in which two employees were dropped 60 feet into Gulf of Mexico waters due to a crane malfunction, Reuters reported. No injuries were reported.

Black Elk also paid a $300,000 civil fine in September, related to a site inspection in 2011 of one of its facilities that revealed it was not complying with regulations.

Federal data also shows a small fire occurred at a Black Elk platform in February of 2011 in the Gulf of Mexico, but was quickly contained.

The company's chief executive, John Hoffman, formerly worked for BP Amoco, according to a report earlier this year in the Houston Business Journal. Hoffman founded Black Elk in 2007, the report said.

The press has demonstrated not the slightest curiosity about what training the Phillipine welders had nor how much they were being paid for their work. They also don't seem at all concerned with why the Phillipine embassy had to fly the families of the injured workers to the U.S. rather than Black Elk nor why it took two weeks for this to happen.

Oil platform blast off Louisiana coast claims second fatality

November 24, 2012, 8:18 p.m.
A welder injured in an explosion on an oil platform off the Louisiana coast two weeks ago has died -- only hours after his family had arrived at his bedside, the Philippines Embassy announced.

Tajonera, 49, is the explosion's second fatality. He was working on the Black Elk Energy oil platform Nov. 16 when workers cutting through a pipe apparently ignited triggered an explosion.

The body of Ellroy Corporal, 42, was discovered in the water under the platform by divers on Nov. 17. A third worker, Jerome Malagapo, 28, is still missing. The U.S. Coast Guard halted its search for him last weekend. Nine others, including, Tajonera, were injured.

The Philippines Embassy estimated that about 15 of the 22 workers on the rig at the time of the blast were from the Philippines and working through a subcontractor Black Elk Energy had hired.

The embassy has been flying workers' families in from the Philippines to see their injured loved ones.

The platform is about 20 miles southeast of Grand Isle, La., in the Gulf of Mexico. Federal investigators are looking into the cause of the accident.

More evidence that getting BP to be attentive to safety requires a regulator that forces them to do so. More's the pity that countries don't just start telling BP to take their blatantly unsafe ways elsewhere.

Norway Regulator Tells BP to Implement Safety Measures at Oil Platform

Published November 27, 2012 Dow Jones Newswires

Norway's Petroleum Safety Authority has ordered BP PLC (BP.LN) to implement immediate measures to comply with fire- and explosion-prevention requirements at its Ula P oil platform following an oil and gas leak in September at the North Sea facility.

In the order, Norway's PSA said that fire protection for the main substructure and process equipment on the Ula P processing platform were inadequate and passive fire protection needed to be installed. Such protection would slow a fire from spreading and protect the steel structure of the platform from deformation, the PSA said in a statement issued late Monday.

The PSA also said that walls between the processing modules on the platform, where hydrocarbons are separated into oil, gas and water, don't have sufficient protection from explosion and need to be strengthened.

BP has until Dec. 31, 2012, to comply with the PSA's order.

On Sept. 18, BP said a leak had forced it to shut down the platform in the southern sector of the North Sea earlier that month. BP restarted production at Ula on Nov. 17.

At the time, the PSA said the hydrocarbon leak from the platform Sept. 12 was "substantial" and described the episode as having "substantial potential." Nobody was injured in the incident.

Earlier this year, BP halted output at its Foinaven Field in the North Sea after a leak was discovered in an underwater connecting pipeline. Last year, a fire at the Valhall production platform, also in the North Sea, led to a production shutdown at the field for more than two months.

PLEASE visit Pam LaPier's diary to find out how you can help the Gulf now and in the future. We don't have to be idle! And thanks to Crashing Vor and Pam LaPier for working on this!
Previous Gulf Watcher diaries:
11-13-12 06:06 PM Gulf Watchers Tuesday - Something's Happening Here... - BP Catastrophe AUV #600 Lorinda Pike
10-30-12 04:30 PM Gulf Watchers Tuesday - Macondo equipment responsible for oil sheen - BP Catastrophe AUV #599 peraspera
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