(credit: US Coast Guard)

In April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon exploded and began spewing oil into the US Gulf Coast. In all, this released some 134 million gallons of crude over a span of almost three months. Eleven workers were killed in the nation's worst offshore oil spill.

Today, federal prosecutors moved—and a judge agreed—to drop manslaughter charges against two supervisors aboard the Deepwater Horizon when it exploded. This development, in which prosecutors said they believed they no longer could meet the legal threshold for a conviction, means that nobody will go to prison for the disaster that soiled coastlines from Texas to Florida, killed nearly a dozen people, and was an environmental disaster that perhaps brings with it never-before-seen longterm consequences.

The government announced the legal move Wednesday in a New Orleans courtroom. Rig supervisor Donald Vidrine instead pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act, a misdemeanor that likely will result in 10 months of probation and 100 hours of community service. Robert Kaluza, the other supervisor who also was being charged with 11 manslaughter counts, is going to fight a single misdemeanor charge that he also violated the Clean Water Act.

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