WASHINGTON — The oil company behind the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history can once again perform work for the federal government.
Under an agreement reached Thursday with the Environmental Protection Agency, more than two dozen BP entities and its Houston oil production and exploration arm can secure new government contracts.
The company had been suspended from performing any new government work since November 2012, after BP agreed to plead guilty and to pay a $4.5 billion fine for criminal charges involving the death of 11 workers and lying to Congress about how much oil was spilling into the Gulf of Mexico.
The temporary ban barred the oil company for 16 months from leasing more offshore oil and gas properties and renewing fuel contracts with the U.S. military. The decision comes just before the Department of Interior will offer more than 40 million acres for oil and gas exploration and development in the Gulf of Mexico in March lease sales.
For five years, BP will have to abide by a series of ethics, safety and other requirements. An independent auditor will also verify its compliance with the deal.
Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen's Energy Program, criticized the move for letting BP "off the hook." The company "has failed to prove that it is a responsible contractor deserving of lucrative taxpayer deals," he said.
The April 2010 spill occurred after BP's Macondo well blew out, causing the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig to explode, killing 11 workers. Millions of gallons of oil spewed into the gulf, with crude soiling shoreline and beaches from Louisiana to Florida.