About Time! Money Can't Undo Damage, ThoughTo me it seems like the Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico took place just yesterday. It was truly a historic environmental event, like the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. I hope that others feel the same, and that important lessons have been learned (Shell, I'm looking in your direction)... And in this world, one effective way to teach lessons is to hit the wallet: Transocean, the Swiss company that operated the Deepwater Horizon rig (which you can see in in all its blazing glory in the photos above and below), has after all these years pleaded guilty of "environmental crimes" in violation of the the U.S. Clean Water Act and will pay criminal fines of 400 million dollars and civil penalties of 1 billion dollars. That's probably more effective than sending them to their room to think about it, right?
"Transocean's rig crew accepted the direction of BP well site leaders to proceed in the face of clear danger signs at a tragic cost to many of them," said assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer.
In November, BP agreed a settlement with the US government worth $4.5bn, including a $1.26bn criminal fine.
It has spent $14bn on cleaning up the oil spill and compensating local people. (source)
The settlement includes improvements to the safety and emergency responses on Transocean's rigs, which hopefully will help avoid future disasters. I also hope that the rest of the industry learned from BP and Transocean's mistakes and beefed up its safety equipment and emergency procedures.
It's possible for accidents to happen even when everybody's acting in good faith and using best practices, which is what makes a lot of these complex offshore operations so scary, but criminal negligence is something else entirely that must be punished severely.