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On Thursday, Halliburton, the oilfields services company involved in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico blowout, pleaded guilty to destroying evidence and was sentenced to three years’ probation and a $200,000 fine. Halliburton provided the cement that was used to seal the underwater well.
When asked by US Disctrict Judge Jane Triche Milazzo, “Does the company wish to plead guilty because it is in fact guilty?” Marc Mukasey, authorised by the company’s board to deliver their verdict, replied “Yes.”
The plea was accepted, and as part of a prearranged agreement prosecutors will end their criminal probe of the company’s involvement in events leading up to the oil spill, despite the fact that its cement job, proven by independent investigations to be faulty, was a major factor in causing the spill.
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Halliburton pleaded guilty to a charge of misdemeanour, and was subsequently ordered to pay the maximum fine. If a deal hadn’t been struck and the company had been found guilty at trial, the charge would have faced a sentence of five years of probation.
The guilty plea was the conclusion to a series of scripted criminal prosecutions between prosecutors and the three main companies involved in the disaster; BP, Halliburton, and Transocean.
The civil charges are still being brought against the companies, who face the possibility of paying billions of dollars in damages if they are found to have been grossly negligent in the build-up to the spill.
BP, the British oil major, has already pleaded guilty to the charges of manslaughter, amongst others, and was ordered to pay a $4 billion criminal fine, as well as a $525 million payment for security violations.
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Transocean, the drilling contractor that owned the Deepwater Horizon rig, also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour for violating the Clean Water Act via its negligent discharge of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
Leading up to the disaster BP was actually in the process of closing off the well and abandoning it permanently. Halliburton supplied the cement needed to plug the well, but the seal failed and the oil and gas trapped within blew out, destroying the rig above and leaking at least 4.9 million barrels of oil over the next 87 days.
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com