2010 BP Oil Spill Manslaughter Charges Dropped, Nobody’s Going to Prison

BP oil spill in 2010 1 photo
Photo: US Coast Guard
One of the greatest ecological disasters ever is about to end without anybody from BP going to jail, after federal prosecutors decided to drop manslaughter charges against two supervisors present on the rig at the time of the incident.
Speaking of which, maybe it’s worth remembering what exactly happened back then. BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig off the southern US Coast exploded in 2010, spilling millions of gallons of oil into the ocean’s waters. About 134 million, to be more precise, as the company was unable to contain the spill for almost three months.

While the ecological implications of this accident are hard to predict but are most definitely severe, the manslaughter charges were a lot more factual: during the blast, eleven oil rig workers were killed, hence the accusations against the two supervisors.

Today, though, the prosecutors said they could no longer meet the necessary margin for a conviction in these two cases and moved to drop the charges, and the judge agreed. This means that more than five years after the disaster, the final two criminal charges against BP’s employees have been overruled, and nobody will go to prison.

One of the two supervisors, Donald Vidrine, has pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act, which will probably get him a 10-months probation time and 100 hours of community service work. The second man involved, Robert Kaluza, pleaded not guilty to an identical charge and will be fighting for a favorable ruling in court.

Obviously, sending the two supervisors to prison would not have changed anything and it’s safe to assume they’re just some small pawns in the larger scheme. However, the fact that a catastrophe of this size that also resulted in 11 deaths can go unpunished clearly sends the wrong message out. Yes, BP paid billions of dollars in record settlement fees, but let’s face it: those are the millions for which eleven people had died and who knows how many ecosystems have been permanently affected.

According to ArsTechnica, the Department of Justice argued the turnaround saying that the charges have been dropped “because circumstances surrounding the case have changed since it was originally charged, and after a careful review the department determined it can no longer meet the legal standard for instituting the involuntary manslaughter charges.”

On the other hand, Keith Jones, father of Gordon Jones, one of the workers killed in the blast, had this heartfelt yet cynical comment: “As a result of this court proceeding today, no man will ever spend a moment behind bars for killing 11 men for reasons based entirely on greed.”

Five years on from the initial spill, there are still unhealed wounds from the terrible BP disaster.
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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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