Investigations and legal proceedings
Investigations into the Deepwater Horizon accident continue to play an important role in understanding its causes, preventing future accidents and improving the safety of deepwater drilling
In the immediate aftermath of the explosion, BP launched an investigation, drawing on the expertise of more than 50 technical and other specialists from within BP and the industry. The BP investigation concluded that no single cause was responsible for the accident. The investigation team made 26 recommendations specific to drilling which BP has accepted and is implementing across its worldwide drilling operations.
External investigations and hearings
We continue to co-operate with all official investigations and hearings related to the accident. Several entities have issued reports of their investigations, including the US Coast Guard, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling and the National Academy of Engineering.
While the reports contain criticisms of BP, we believe the findings of these reports support the conclusion, consistent with our own investigation, that the accident resulted from multiple causes and was due to the actions of multiple parties. Additional US government investigations into the Gulf of Mexico oil spill are taking place.
Agreement with US authorities
BP reached an agreement with the US government in November 2012 to resolve all federal criminal claims arising out of the Gulf of Mexico incident. BP pleaded guilty to 11 felony counts of misconduct or neglect of ships officers relating to the loss of 11 lives; one misdemeanour count under the Clean Water Act; one misdemeanour count under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; and one felony count of obstruction of Congress.
BP will pay $4 billion - including criminal fines and payments to the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation and to the National Academy of Sciences - over a period of five years. The court also ordered, as previously agreed with the US government, that BP serve a term of five years’ probation.
BP has agreed to take additional actions, enforceable by the court, to further enhance the safety of drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico. These include BP’s risk management processes, such as third-party auditing and verification, training, and well control equipment and processes such as blowout preventers and cementing.
BP also reached a settlement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in November 2012, resolving the SEC’s Deepwater Horizon-related civil claims. BP has agreed to a civil penalty of $525 million, and to an injunction prohibiting it from violating certain US securities laws and regulations. BP made its first payment of $175 million in December 2012.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in November 2012 that it had temporarily suspended BP p.l.c. and other BP companies from participating in or receiving new federal contracts, or renewing an expiring one. The suspension does not affect existing contracts BP has with the US government, including those relating to current and ongoing drilling and production operations in the Gulf of Mexico. In February 2013, the EPA issued a notice of mandatory debarment to a BP group company, thus effectively preventing it from entering into new contracts or leases with the US government. We continue to work with the EPA to resolve suspension and debarment issues.
The Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC) acts on behalf of individual and business plaintiffs in the multi-district litigation proceedings pending in New Orleans.
In April 2012, BP announced we had reached definitive and fully documented agreements with the PSC to resolve the substantial majority of eligible private economic loss and medical claims stemming from the Deepwater Horizon accident and oil spill. These agreements were approved by the court in December 2012 and in January 2013, although BP is challenging a recent ruling by the court regarding the interpretation of certain protocols established in the economic and property damages settlement agreement.
The first phase of a trial of liability, limitation, exoneration and fault allocation commenced in New Orleans in February 2013.
The information on this page forms part of the information reviewed and reported on by Ernst & Young as part of BP's 2012 sustainability reporting.