The U.S. Justice Department has filed its initial charges in connection with the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster on April 20, 2010. Now a former BP employee faces prison time and fines.
Former BP engineer Kurt Mix was arrested on charges of intentionally destroying evidence requested by federal authorities investigating the explosion that killed 11 workers.
The two obstruction of justice charges come with the potential for Mix to spend 20 years in prison and pay a fine of up to $250,000 for each count.
The Justice Department says Mix, a drilling and completions project engineer for BP, is accused of deleting a text string from his iPhone containing more than 200 messages with a BP supervisor. Some of those messages were recovered. In one text, Mix stated, “Flowrate — over 15,000.” That number refers to the number of barrels of oil per day (BOPD) that was flowing out of the well. At the time the text was sent, BP said the flow rate was 5,000 BOPD.
The investigation is ongoing. Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department “will hold accountable those who violated the law in connection with the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.”
A federal investigation into the disaster found that several BP practices contributed to the explosion and deaths, including:
- poor risk management
- last-minute changes to plans
- failure to respond to critical indicators, and
- insufficient emergency response training.
A year ago, Bloomberg News reported that federal authorities were considering manslaughter charges against BP in connection with the workers’ deaths.