BP’s record settlement of $4.5 billion for damages caused by the explosion and spill of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in 2010 is the largest criminal fine in U.S. history, but at a fifth of the company’s 2011 profits, to be paid over a span of five years, it amounts to a “pathetic” slap on the wrist, says Public Citizen’s Tyler Slocum.

An AP source said the company would plead guilty to obstruction of justice for lying to Congress about the amount of oil pouring out of the ruptured well. The reports suggest that the Justice Department will not pursue criminal charges against BP for the alleged negligence that led to the disaster, Slocum says.

“While civil violations of the Clean Water Act are still pending against the company after this settlement, the lack of criminal sanctions for conduct up to April 20 would be a defeat for the communities and families harmed by the disaster. The single criminal charge is inadequate; remember that two BP subsidiaries were under criminal indictment at the time of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy.”

The disaster killed 11 workers and injured the Gulf of Mexico’s ecosystem and the region’s economy, putting the company’s liability at a minimum of $51.5 billion, Slocum writes.

According to The Wall Street Journal, BP’s contracts are worth $2.2 billion per year.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Tyler Slocum at Public Citizen:

Any settlement must allow for full recovery of the Gulf Coast region and its communities; deter other companies from putting profits before safety; and involve the disclosure of all information gathered by the government, so the public has a complete understanding of the wrongdoing that killed workers and continues to wreak havoc on the environment.

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