A former Halliburton Co. manager was charged by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday with destroying evidence linked to the Macondo well blowout in 2010.
Halliburton had been the cementing contractor hired by BP plc to drill the well. The charge against Anthony Badalamenti, who had been the cementing technology director for Halliburton Energy Inc., coincided with a guilty plea by Halliburton on Thursday related to the case.
Badalamenti, 61, instructed two Halliburton employees to delete data during a post-spill review of the cement job on the Macondo well, according to DOJ. Arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 30 under a bill of information, which may signal that he is cooperating with prosecutors.
The federal court also finalized an agreement reached with Halliburton in July, which required it to pay a $200,000 fine for a misdemeanor related to the alleged misconduct, the statutory maximum for the charge (see Daily GPI, July 29). Halliburton was not charged with a crime related the fatal explosion in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM), as were BP and Deepwater Horizon rig owner Transocean Ltd.
The plea agreement requires Halliburton to be on probation for three years. Halliburton has agreed to make a $55 million contribution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which was not a condition of the plea.
Halliburton management said closing the case was a good move and noted that prosecutors have described its cooperation as “exceptional,” as well as “forthright, extensive and ongoing” since the investigation was launched.
U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo, who presided over the case, said the plea agreement was reasonable and “adequately reflects the seriousness of the offense.”
The guilty plea and the charge against Badalamenti “mark the latest steps forward…to achieve justice on behalf of all those affected by the Deepwater Horizon explosion, oil spill, and environmental disaster,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.
Halliburton still faces civil penalties for its role in the Macondo blowout. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans is presiding over a trial designed to identify the causes of the well blowout and to assign the percentage of fault to each participant. The second phase of the multidistrict litigation case, which will focus on BP’s attempts to plug the well and determine how much oil was spilled, is scheduled to begin Sept. 30.
Meanwhile, BP on Thursday filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge, LA, against the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, which is requiring the company to retrieve anchors lost or buried during the spill cleanup. The U.S. Coast Guard has said retrieving the anchors would damage the environment in the GOM.
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