Due to BP (IW 1000/4) pleading guilty to criminal charges stemming from the deadly 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, the US government banned the company from government contracts.

Two weeks after agreeing to pay $4.5 billion to settle Justice Department charges in the case, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered BP temporarily blocked from contracts until it can prove it meets U.S. government business standards.

"EPA is taking this action due to BP's lack of business integrity as demonstrated by the company's conduct with regard to the Deepwater Horizon blowout, explosion, oil spill, and response," the agency said.

The EPA cited BP's admission of guilt on November 15 to 11 counts of manslaughter, one count of felony obstruction of Congress and two environmental violations arising from the April 20, 2010 well blowout, which caused the worst ecological disaster in U.S. history.

The blowout and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform left 11 people dead and spewed some 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days, blackening beaches in five states.

The EPA said the ban on BP and affiliates from receiving federal contracts will continue "until the company can provide sufficient evidence to EPA demonstrating that it meets federal business standards."

The November 15 deal settled most but not all federal criminal charges against the company.

Two of the British energy giant's on-board supervisors still face involuntary manslaughter, and a former BP executive is also charged with obstruction of justice for lying about how much oil was gushing out of the runaway well.

Announcing the settlement, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder warned that BP's legal troubles were far from over, saying: "Our criminal investigation remains ongoing -- and we'll continue to follow all credible leads and pursue any charges that are warranted."

He also said that the Justice Department had yet to resolve a civil case on environmental fines which could amount to as much as $18 billion.

"We're looking forward to the trial -- which is scheduled to begin in February of next year -- in which we intend to prove that BP was grossly negligent in causing the oil spill," Holder told a press conference.

BP has signaled it will continue to aggressively pursue damages from rig operator Transocean and well operations subcontractor Halliburton, which BP blames for faulty work leading up to the blowout.

Paul Handley, AFP

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012