An investor in the Gulf of Mexico oil well that was the centerpiece of the country's largest spill has agreed to a $90 million settlement to resolve settle claims flowing from the April 2010 disaster.
MOEX Offshore LLC, a unit of Mitsui & Co. Ltd. of Japan, will pay $70 million in civil penalties for violations of the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Justice Department said today. The settlement is the largest-ever for a violation under the act.
The company agreed to an additional $20 million to fund land acquisition projects to preserve habitat in several states along the Gulf of Mexico. The settlement was reached on the eve of trial in the first phase of the federal government’s Deepwater Horizon litigation.
DOJ said the MOEX settlement does not affect the potential liability or recoveries from the five other defendants in the case. Trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 27 in New Orleans federal district court.
“The Department of Justice has not wavered in its commitment to hold all responsible parties fully accountable for what stands as the largest oil spill in U.S. history,” Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said in a statement. “This landmark settlement is an important step—but only a first step—toward achieving accountability and protecting the future of the Gulf ecosystem by funding critical habitat preservation projects.”
An attorney for MOEX, Thomas Campbell, a partner in the Houston office of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, was not immediately reached for comment. Campbell leads the firm’s crisis management team. A company spokesman said MOEX Offshore, MOEX USA and affiliates "are pleased to have resolved these claims.”
MOEX, according to court papers, held a ten-percent interest in the lease of BP Plc’s Macondo Well at the time of the oil spill. The owners and operators of the well and the Deepwater Horizon oil-drilling rig, DOJ contends, allowed millions of barrels of oil to flow into the Gulf of Mexico.
The $70 million civil penalty includes a $45 million payment to the federal government. DOJ said that money will go to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.
The proposed settlement (PDF) was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. DOJ said the deal is subject to a 30-day comment period and to court approval.