Halliburton has agreed to plead guilty to destroying evidence in connection with the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, according to the Justice Department on Thursday.
The oil-field giant has been charged with one count of destruction of evidence in U.S. District Court in New Orleans.
They have agreed to a plea agreement that is subject to court approval. The Justice Department said that Halliburtons has agreed:
…to pay the maximum-available statutory fine, to be subject to three years of probation and to continue its cooperation in the government’s ongoing criminal investigation.”
The explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in April 2010 was the largest offshore oil disaster in U.S. history. It killed 11 workers and spewed nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
A consortium of energy companies, led by BP, owned the Macondo well, while Transocean owned the drilling rig that BP was leasing for the venture. The cement work on the well was contracted by Halliburton.
Halliburton’s plea agreement was the third that the Justice Department has obtained in the criminal investigation of the disaster. The second was Transocean. They agreed to pay $400 million as part of its criminal plea, and the company who they obtained the third plea agreement with, BP, $4 billion.
There is also civil suit against the three companies brought by the Justice Department and others that is continuing in the courts.
According to the Justice Department, Halliburton’s plea involves the destruction of results of internal tests the company conducted after the drilling rig sank.
The tests were meant to determine the soundness of advice Halliburton gave to BP before the disaster. Halliburton had recommended that BP use 21 centralizers, which would have kept the metal casing in the well centered and away from the surrounding rock wall. BP didn’t heed Halliburton’s advice, and decided to use six centralizers instead.
Halliburton, in May and June, tested separately through computer modeling whether its advice to use 21 centralizers would have improved the stability of the well.
However, the tests conducted for both of the months showed no difference between the use of six centralizers and 21. When officials at Halliburton saw these results, the company ordered the results destroyed.
The Justice Department said:
In agreeing to plead guilty, Halliburton has accepted criminal responsibility for destroying the aforementioned evidence.”
Halliburton Energy Services has agreed to pay a maximum $200,000 fine for destroying evidence related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which the Gulf of Mexico is yet to recover from. The company will also donate $55 million towards wildlife protection.
According to the Justice Department,the contribution was not court-mandated, but may have served to curry favor with investigators.
A January 2013 study found that the spill, along with the environmental effects, contributed to unexplained health problems among children within 10 miles of the coastline.
Parents in the states of Louisiana and Florida told David Abramson, the director of Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness, that they witnessed “unexplained symptoms among their children, including bleeding ears, nose bleeds, and the early start of menstruation among girls.”
By deliberately destroying evidence, and pleading guilty, Halliburton has finally admitted their role in the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion and resultant environmental disaster.
Written by: Douglas Cobb