By Tom Fowler
A federal judge approved a $4 billion settlement of criminal charges Tuesday between BP PLC (BP, BP.LN) and the U.S. Justice Department over the deadly 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico.
Judge Sarah Vance made the ruling in New Orleans during a hearing where victims of the explosion and their families were allowed to speak out against the settlement, according to a BP spokeswoman.
The company pleaded guilty to 11 felony counts of manslaughter related to the deaths aboard the drilling rig when it exploded, one felony count for lying about the size of the oil spill that followed, and several misdemeanor environmental crimes.
Eleven workers died after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in April 2010, triggering the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
BP, which was leasing the rig at the time, still faces civil penalties under the Clean Water Act that could range into the billions of dollars. A trial is scheduled to begin before another judge in New Orleans on Feb. 25.
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