Judge approves Transocean's $1 billion Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- A U.S. judge on Tuesday approved Swiss-based Transocean Ltd.'s agreement with the Justice Department to pay $1 billion in civil penalties for its role in the massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico -- the nation's worst offshore oil spill.

Last week, a different judge approved Transocean's criminal settlement with the federal government. The company pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge and will pay $400 million in criminal penalties.

Transocean owned the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which exploded and sank over BP's Macondo well in April 2010. The accident killed 11 rig workers and spawned the oil spill.

A trial scheduled to start Feb. 25 is designed to identify the causes of BP's Macondo well blowout and assign percentages of fault to the companies involved.

British oil giant BP, which leased the rig from Transocean and owned the blown-out well, reached a separate criminal settlement with the Justice Department. BP agreed to pay a record $4 billion in criminal penalties and pleaded guilty to manslaughter and other criminal charges related to the spill.

Transocean has two years to pay the $1 billion civil penalty. The settlement also calls for Transocean to implement a series of operational safety and emergency response improvements on its rigs.

Much of the $1.4 billion that Transocean agreed to pay will fund environmental restoration projects and spill-prevention research and training

Civil claims against BP by the federal government and five Gulf states haven't been resolved. Transocean said in a September regulatory filing that it rejected settlement offers last year from BP and a group of lawyers representing Gulf Coast residents and businesses who blame the spill for economic damage. Those claims also are pending.

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