On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, killing 11 workers and spilling 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The spill was the largest in U.S. history, occurring over a period of 87 days while British Petroleum, the operators of the rig, made multiple attempts to cap it. Several lawsuits have followed in the wake of the disaster, many from residents and commercial fishermen whose livelihoods and property were destroyed by the spill.
Halliburton was contracted by BP to seal the completed well with cement as well as monitor it throughout its operations. Government investigative panels have since found that the cementing was deficient and a direct cause of the well blowout, though Halliburton claims the cement mix was made to BP’s specifications. The company has in turn blamed BP and Transocean Ltd., the owner of the rig, with failing to test its integrity. All three companies deny gross negligence on their parts.
On Tuesday, Halliburton agreed to create a more than $1 billion fund to compensate commercial fishermen, property owners and local government entities affected by the Gulf oil spill. Halliburton is also willing to settle claims for a separate class of businesses and individuals affected by a 2012 BP settlement.
In an emailed statement, BP spokesman Geoff Morrell expressed satisfaction that Halliburton was admitting at least partial responsibility for the rig blowout.
“This settlement marks the very first time — despite three years of official investigations and litigation implicating the company — that Halliburton has acknowledged that it played a role in the accident,” he wrote.
The settlement must first be approved by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who still has a ruling pending on the extent to which Halliburton and other parties are to blame for the incident. If Halliburton is found to be guilty of gross negligence, plaintiffs may refuse the settlement and demand greater compensation.