Anthony Badalamenti, a 62-year old former Halliburton manager, pleaded guilty yesterday to destroying evidence related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. He’s charged with one misdemeanor count, and faces a maximum of one year in prison and $100,000 in fines.
The rig explosion explosion and subsequent well blowout killed 11 people, and dumped more oil into the Gulf of Mexico than any spill in U.S. history. Halliburton was contracted with the cementing of the well, and in the run-up to the spill recommended that 21 “centralizers” — metal collars used to stabilize the well casing — be used. BP, the owner and operator of the well, chose to use six centralizers instead. In the subsequent investigation, this became a point of contention between the two companies over who was to blame for the disaster.
In May of 2010, one month after the spill began, Halliburton ran a series of 3D simulations on the cementing job to test if the lower number of centralizers contributed to the well’s failure. The simulations, which Badalamenti was in charge of, found the difference in centralizers had “little effect” on the outcome.
As Time reports, “Badalamenti instructed the program manager to delete the results. The program manager ‘felt uncomfortable’ about the instruction but complied, according to prosecutors.”
“A different Halliburton employee also deleted data from a separate round of simulations at the direction of Badalamenti, prosecutors said.”
Halliburton itself agreed in July to pay a $200,000 fine and undergo three years of probation over the matter. On the individual level, Badalamenti isn’t the first person to be charged with a crime in the Deepwater Horizon disaster. But he is the first to plead guilty, according to Time.
Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine, both well site leaders for BP, face manslaughter charges for the 11 workers killed. Prosecutors accuse them of mishandling a key safety test and ignoring dangerously high pressure readings. David Rainey, a former BP executive, is charged with concealing the true extent of the oil spill from Congress, and former BP engineer Kurt Mix is charged with deleting text messages and voicemails related to the company’s handling of the spill.
Badalamenti’s sentencing by U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey is set for January 21, 2014.