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United States ends BP government contract ban

WASHINGTON--The United States announced Thursday an end to its ban on BP obtaining government contracts following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Environmental Protection Agency said that BP “agreed to safety and ethics improvements” in exchange for removing the ban, which had hurt the British company's ability to do business in the United States.

The five-year deal with the EPA will allow BP to pursue new oil exploration leases in deepwater tracts in the Gulf of Mexico, which still bears many traces of the massive 2010 spill, the worst in U.S. history.

“After a lengthy negotiation, BP is pleased to have reached this resolution, which we believe to be fair and reasonable,” BP America chairman and president John Minge said.

“Today's agreement will allow America's largest energy investor to compete again for federal contracts and leases.”

Under the deal, BP must add and expand efforts in corporate ethics and compliance, enforce a detailed code of conduct, and meet EPA audit requirements.

It also must protect company employees who report violations and incentivize employees to pursue safety and compliance standards in their compensation agreements.

In return, BP will withdraw its own August 2013 lawsuit against the EPA that contested the agency's authority to apply the sweeping ban.

Craig Hooks, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Administration and Resources Management, hailed the “fair agreement that requires BP to improve its practices in order to meet the terms we've outlined together.”

Major Pentagon Supplier

The EPA set the ban on BP getting government contracts on Nov. 28, 2012, citing the oil giant's “lack of business integrity” in the spill and its aftermath.

Eleven people were killed and some 4.9 million barrels of oil flooded into the gulf after the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and sank.

The EPA had said the ban would continue “until the company can provide sufficient evidence to EPA demonstrating that it meets federal business standards.”

In pleading guilty for the spill, BP agreed to pay the government US$4.5 billion to settle criminal charges in the case.

It also agreed earlier in 2012 to settle damage claims by businesses and individuals for about US$7.8 billion.

BP is the Pentagon's main supplier of fuel, both in the United States and abroad.

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