Make us your home page
Instagram

Feds make first arrest in BP oil spill

Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico after the explosion April 20, 2010, which killed 11 workers and set off the nation’s worst offshore oil disaster. More than 200 million gallons of crude oil flowed out of the well.

Getty Images (2010)

Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico after the explosion April 20, 2010, which killed 11 workers and set off the nation’s worst offshore oil disaster. More than 200 million gallons of crude oil flowed out of the well.

NEW ORLEANS — A BP engineer intentionally deleted more than 300 text messages that said the company's efforts to control the Gulf of Mexico oil spill were failing and that the amount of oil leaking was far more than what the company reported, the Justice Department said Tuesday.

In the first criminal charges related to the deadly explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig in April 2010, the Justice Department arrested Kurt Mix. He was charged with two counts of obstruction of justice for allegedly destroying evidence federal authorities sought, officials announced in a statement.

The charges came a day before a federal judge in New Orleans was to consider preliminarily approving a $7.8 billion settlement between BP and a committee of plaintiffs representing more than 100,000 victims of the spill.

Cement contractor Halliburton is objecting to the proposed settlement. Halliburton said in a filing in federal court in New Orleans late Tuesday the settlement improperly seeks to assign certain claims that BP has made against Halliburton to the Plaintiffs Steering Committee.

The Houston-based company says allowing the settlement to be approved under those conditions would affect its ability to independently settle with the group or individual plaintiffs. Halliburton also asserts it can't be made to contribute to payments BP makes to the plaintiffs without a legal obligation to do so.

Shrimp processors have raised objections, saying the settlement does not adequately compensate them.

The criminal charge is significant, because having an accurate flow-rate estimate is key to determining how much in civil and criminal penalties BP and the other companies connected with the spill will face under the Clean Water Act.

In an emailed statement, BP said it would not comment on the case but is cooperating with the Justice Department and other investigations into the oil spill. "BP had clear policies requiring preservation of evidence in this case and has undertaken substantial and ongoing efforts to preserve evidence," the statement said.

Mix, 50, of Katy, Texas, appeared before a judge in Houston and was released on $100,000 bail. Mix, who no longer works for BP, said very little during the hearing, answering routine questions about the charges.

If convicted, Mix faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on each count.

The engineer deleted more than 200 messages sent to a BP supervisor from his iPhone in October 2010 containing information about how much oil was spilling out — and then erased 100 more the following year after receiving numerous legal notices to preserve the information, the Justice Department said.

Feds make first arrest in BP oil spill 04/24/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 10:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members

    News

    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  3. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion

    Markets

    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  4. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]
  5. Trigaux: Tampa Bay health care leaders wary of getting too far ahead in disruptive times

    Business

    Are attempts to repeal Obamacare dead for the foreseeable future? Might the Affordable Care Act (ACA), now in dire limbo, be revived? Will Medicaid coverage for the most in need be gutted? Can Republicans now in charge of the White House, Senate and House ever agree to deliver a substitute health care plan that people …

    Natalia Ricabal of Lutz, 12 years old, joined other pediatric cancer patients in Washington in July to urge Congress to protect Medicaid coverage that helped patients like Ricabal fight cancer. She was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in 2013 and has undergone extensive treatments at BayCare's St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa. [Courtesy of BayCare]