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A federal judge has approved a consent decree through which a Transocean Ltd. subsidiary will pay the U.S. government $1 billion in civil penalties for its role in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill three years ago.  U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier on February 19 approved the deal between the U.S. Department of Justice and Transocean Deepwater Inc., Transocean Ocean Holdings LLC, Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling Inc. and Triton Asset Leasing GMBH. The pact is part of a $1.4 billion settlement in which the Transocean Deepwater pleaded guilty on January 3 to one misdemeanor count of violating the U.S. Clean Water Act by contributing to the discharge of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Transocean will pay an additional $400 million in criminal penalties to the U.S. government. On February 14, U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo in New Orleans approved the criminal portion of the settlement. A Transocean spokesman declined to comment. "This unprecedented settlement under the Clean Water Act demonstrates that companies will be held fully accountable for their conduct and share responsibility for compliance with the laws that protect the public and the environment from harm," assistant attorney general Ignacia Moreno of the Justice Department’s environment and natural resources division, said when the government announced the Transocean deal. Barbier, also in New Orleans, will preside beginning on February 25 over a trial in the remaining oil spill litigation, which includes lawsuits by thousands of individuals and businesses seeking economic damages against Transocean. Also on trial are the U.S. government’s claims for civil penalties under the Oil Pollution Act against BP PLC. BP pleaded guilty to 14 criminal charges related to the spill as part of a $4 billion agreement that U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance approved on January 29. On December 20, Barbier approved a separate settlement in which BP agreed to pay $7.8 billion to settle the individual and business claims. Under the terms of its civil consent decree with the government, Transocean will pay $400 million within 60 days, another $400 million within one year and $200 million within two years. The money will go toward natural resource damages and cleanup costs. Transocean also agreed to injunctive relief, including compliance measures to improve its oversight of drilling operations and oil spill training, and to invest at least $10 million in technology focused on drilling safety. Contact Amanda Bronstad at abronstad@alm.com.

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