Bloomberg News

Moex Agrees to Pay $90 Million to Settle U.S. Spill Claims

February 21, 2012

(Updates with attorney general comment in sixth paragraph.)

Feb. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Mitsui & Co.’s MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC will pay $90 million to the U.S. and five states for violating the Clean Water Act in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, according to court filings.

The U.S. filed a consent order in federal court today outlining the settlement. The agreement requires MOEX to pay $45 million in civil penalties to the U.S. and about $25 million total to Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, court papers show. MOEX will also pay $20 million for land acquisition projects, the U.S. said.

MOEX held a 10 percent share of BP Plc’s Macondo well, which blew up in April 2010, setting off the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The company earlier paid BP about $1 billion to settle claims. The U.S. has also sued BP and Anadarko Petroleum Corp., which held a 25 percent interest in the well, over Clean Water Act violations.

The settlement is the first of a series of expected agreements with the U.S. as lawsuits over the 2010 spill approach a trial set for Feb. 27. The U.S. Justice Department sued MOEX, BP, Anadarko and Transocean Ltd., which owned the rig that exploded, in December 2010, seeking fines for each barrel of oil discharged.

Potential Recoveries

The MOEX settlement doesn’t affect claims against or potential recoveries from other companies over the spill, the Justice Department said today. MOEX no longer owns a share of the lease, the U.S. said.

“This landmark settlement is an important step -- but only a first step -- toward achieving accountability and protecting the future of the Gulf ecosystem by funding critical habitat preservation projects,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.

The Macondo well blowout and the explosion that followed killed 11 workers. The sinking of Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and subsequent spill led to hundreds of lawsuits against London-based BP and its partners and contractors.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans, who’s overseeing much of the spill litigation, has scheduled a nonjury trial for Feb. 27 to determine liability and apportion fault for the disaster.

No ‘Admission’

MOEX said in the consent decree that it wasn’t admitting any liability under the Clean Water Act. The settlement also wasn’t “an admission by the MOEX entities of any liability for civil payments or any other claim out of or relating to the Deepwater Horizon incident,” according to the filing.

In return for the settlement, “the U.S. will provide MOEX Offshore, MOEX USA, and their affiliates, directors and other related individuals with a covenant not to sue with respect” to other possible civil and administrative penalty claims, a MOEX spokesman said.

MOEX Offshore is a wholly owned subsidiary of MOEX USA, which in turn is wholly owned by Tokyo-based Mitsui Oil Exploration Co., in which Mitsui & Co. holds a 70 percent equity interest.

The government case is U.S. v. BP Exploration & Production Inc., 2:10-cv-04536, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans). The lawsuit is part of In Re Oil Spill by the Oil Rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010, MDL-2179, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).

--With assistance from Edward Klump in Houston and Seth Stern in Washington. Editors: David Glovin, Andrew Dunn

To contact the reporters on this story: Margaret Cronin Fisk in Southfield, Michigan, at mcfisk@bloomberg.net; Dawn McCarty in Wilmington at dmccarty@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.


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