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US ends contract ban on BP

A BP cleanup crew shovels oil from a beach on May 24, 2010 at Port Fourchon, Louisiana
A BP cleanup crew shovels oil from a beach on May 24, 2010 at Port Fourchon, Louisiana

The United States announced Thursday an end to its ban on BP obtaining government contracts following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, the worst oil spill in US history.

The Environmental Protection Agency said in a tweeted statement 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.

BP said the five-year deal with the EPA will allow it to pursue new oil exploration leases in deepwater tracts in the Gulf of Mexico, which still bears many traces of the massive spill.

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

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

The agreement requires BP to 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.

The EPA set the ban on BP getting government contracts on November 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."

The ban had been set after BP agreed to pay the government $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 $7.8 billion.