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article imageArctic offshore drilling company pleads guilty to crimes

By Karen Graham     Dec 19, 2014 in Crime
Anchorage - A drilling company has pleaded guilty to environmental and maritime crimes in federal court in Anchorage, Alaska on Friday, after reaching an agreement with prosecutors earlier this month.
Bernie G. Wolford Jr., president of Noble Drilling U.S. LLC, said the $8.2 million fine and $4 million community service fines would be paid in full on Friday. According to the Associated Press, Wolford declined to make any further comment.
The fines stem from a case dating back to late December 2012, when the Noble drilling company's drill ship, Noble Discoverer came under investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard over issues with pollution control equipment and crew safety.
Noble drilling was operating the drill ship Noble Discoverer and the drill unit Kulluk in support of Royal Dutch Shell PLC's offshore drilling efforts in 2012. As the investigation went on, 16 violations were found, and in February 2013, the case was turned over to the Justice Department.
It should be noted that all this occurred after the drilling season in the Arctic was over. The drill ship was docked at Seward, Alaska, and the drill barge, the Kulluk was in a bay off Kodiak Island, where it had been towed after running aground on New Year's Eve.
U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass, outlined the violations at that time, stating: "The reports that Shell may have been drilling this summer using a drill ship with serious deficiencies in its safety and pollution control equipment raise additional and continued questions about whether Shell is able to drill safely offshore in the Arctic, and raises serious questions regarding the nature and adequacy of Shell's compliance with applicable laws and regulations."
The agreement worked out with prosecutors included violations covering the keeping of false records or failing to record details surrounding the handling of oil on the vessels. Noble was also charged with failing to notify the U.S. Coast Guard of hazardous conditions aboard the Noble Discoverer.
More about Alaska, Noble Drilling US, Royal dutch shell, Environmental crimes, maritime crimes
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