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Deepwater Horizon Supervisor Gets Probation

Deepwater Horizon

By MarEx 2016-04-07 18:38:30

A former BP rig supervisor who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill was sentenced to 10 months of probation on Wednesday, concluding a federal criminal case in which no one received prison time over the disaster.

Donald Vidrine, 68, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval in New Orleans, in accordance with a plea agreement in which the defendant admitted to the negligent discharge of oil, a Clean Water Act violation.

Vidrine and another supervisor aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig had been accused by the U.S. Department of Justice of failing to properly conduct necessary pressure tests before the April 20, 2010, blowout of BP's Macondo oil well.

A lawyer for Vidrine, Jan Frankowski, confirmed his client's sentence. He declined to comment further. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A Justice Department probe into the spill led to criminal charges against just four, mostly lower-level BP employees.

The other rig supervisor, Robert Kaluza, was acquitted in February by a jury of the same pollution charge as Vidrine's.

Kaluza and Vidrine previously faced manslaughter charges, but those were dropped.

Former BP Vice President David Rainey was acquitted by a jury last June of charges he lied to federal agents about how much oil was spilled.

The fourth defendant, engineer Kurt Mix, was sentenced to six months of probation last November after pleading guilty to damaging a computer, a misdemeanor.

Mix had been convicted in 2013 of obstruction of justice for deleting hundreds of text and voice messages, but juror misconduct led to that conviction being overturned.

Another federal judge in New Orleans, Carl Barbier, on Monday gave final approval to BP's roughly $18.7 billion settlement with the U.S. government and five states over the spill.

Eleven men died in the incident and at least seventeen others were seriously injured. At the time of the blowout, a 5,000 foot-long riser connected the Deepwater Horizon to the well. Hydrocarbons from the well travelled up the riser to the rig, fueling the fire. Deepwater Horizon capsized and sank on April 22. 

As it descended, the marine riser collapsed and fractured. Oil and gas then poured into the Gulf via breaks in the riser near the seafloor. These events triggered a massive response—unprecedented in size and complexity—to combat the oil spill. On April 29, 2010, the incident was declared a “Spill of National Significance” under the National Contingency Plan. This was the first oil spill to receive such a designation. 

Efforts to regain control of the well and stop the source of the discharge finally succeeded on July 15, 2010, nearly three months after initial blowout. By that time, approximately 3.19 million barrels of oil had entered the Gulf.