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Sunday February 7th, 2016 10:09AM

Ex-Halliburton manager charged in Gulf spill probe

By The Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- A former Halliburton employee was charged Thursday with destroying evidence following BP's 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Anthony Badalamenti, who had been the cementing technology director for Halliburton Energy Services Inc., was charged in federal court Thursday with instructing two other employees to delete data during a post-spill review of the cement job on BP's blown-out well.

Halliburton was BP PLC's cement contractor on the drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf in April 2010, killing 11 workers and triggering the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

The 61-year-old Badalamenti of Katy, Texas, is charged in a bill of information, which typically signals that a defendant is cooperating with prosecutors.

Also on Thursday, a federal judge accepted a plea agreement that calls for the Houston-based company to pay a $200,000 fine for conduct related to the charge against Badalamenti.

U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo said she believes the plea agreement is reasonable and agreed with prosecutors and the company that it "adequately reflects the seriousness of the offense."

Unlike BP and rig owner Transocean Ltd., Halliburton was not charged with a crime related to the causes of the disaster. The charge to which it agreed to plead guilty - a misdemeanor count of unauthorized destruction of evidence - involved a post-spill review of the cement job on BP's blown-out Macondo well.

The fine Halliburton agreed to pay is the statutory maximum for the charge. The deal announced in July also calls for Halliburton to be on probation for three years and to make a $55 million contribution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, but that payment was not a condition of the deal.

BP resolved a Justice Department criminal probe of its role in the Deepwater Horizon disaster when it pleaded guilty in January to manslaughter charges for the deaths of the rig workers and agreed to pay a record $4 billion in penalties. Transocean pleaded guilty in February to a misdemeanor charge of violating the Clean Water Act and agreed to pay $400 million in criminal penalties.

Prosecutors said that in May 2010, Badalamenti directed a senior program manager to run computer simulations on centralizers, which are used to keep the casing centered in the wellbore. The results indicated there was little difference between using six or 21 centralizers. The data could have supported BP's decision to use the lower number.

Badalamenti is accused of instructing 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, who was acting without the authorization of the company, prosecutors said.

Halliburton notified investigators from a Justice Department task force about the deletion of data.
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