Judge clears BP oil settlement
A US judge has approved an agreement for oil giant BP to plead guilty to manslaughter and other charges and pay a record four billion dollars (£2.5 billion) in criminal penalties for the company's role in the 2010 oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
More than 200 million gallons of oil spewed in the three months before BP's blown-out Macondo well could be capped. It was one of the worst environmental disasters in US history.
BP agreed in November to plead guilty to charges involving the deaths of 11 workers in the drilling rig explosion that started the spill and for lying to Congress about the size of the spill.
The company could have withdrawn from the agreement if US District Judge Sarah Vance had rejected it.
Neither the Justice Department nor BP presented arguments to the judge before her decision.
Ms Vance said the plea deal was "just punishment" considering the risks of litigation for BP and the alternatives to the settlement. She told victims' relatives who were in court that she read their "truly gut-wrenching" written statements and factored their words into her decision.
"I've heard and I truly understand your feelings and the losses you suffered," she said.
She said she also believes BP executives should have personally apologised to family members.
"I think BP should have done that out of basic humanity," she said.
The deal does not resolve the federal government's civil claims against BP. The company could pay billions more in penalties for environmental damage.