U.S. officials are allowing BP to once again bid on government contracts, lifting a ban imposed on the energy giant after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill.
BP reached a deal with the Environmental Protection Agency that opens the door for the London-based company to win federal contracts, including new leases in the Gulf of Mexico, BP said Thursday.
"After a lengthy negotiation, BP is pleased to have reached this resolution, which we believe to be fair and reasonable," John Minge, chairman and president of BP America, said in a statement.
The EPA imposed the ban in 2012 after concluding that the company did not sufficiently fix issues that led to the well blowout in 2010, which killed 11 workers and leaked millions of gallons of oil. The worst offshore spill in U.S. history also devastated wide stretches of beach in states such as Louisiana and Florida.
The company ultimately pleaded guilty to 11 counts of seaman's manslaughter, two environmental misdemeanors and one felony count of lying to Congress. The company also paid a $4-billion criminal fine.
Last year, BP sued the EPA to lift the suspension. Now the deal will allow the company to bid for potentially lucrative contracts, including an auction next week for drilling leases on millions of acres on the Gulf of Mexico.
The five-year agreement binds the oil company to a set of safety, ethics, compliance and governance requirements. BP also agreed to drop its suit against the EPA filed in federal court in Texas.
Environmental groups slammed the deal and pointed out that the cleanup has still not been completed four years after the oil spill.
Advocacy group Public Citizen said the agreement "lets a corporate felon and repeat offender off the hook for its crimes against the people and the environment."
BP "has failed to prove that it is a responsible contractor deserving of lucrative taxpayer deals," the group said in a Thursday statement.
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