The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) reached a deal with BP Exploration Alaska to pay $25 million in civil penalties and implement a system-wide pipeline integrity management program for spilling more than 5,000 barrels of crude oil from the company’s pipelines on the North Slope of Alaska. The penalty is the largest per-barrel penalty to date for an oil spill, according to the EPA.
In March 2006, BP Alaska spilled approximately 5,054 barrels of crude oil on the North Slope in Alaska. A second spill occurred in August 2006 with approximately 24 barrels of crude oil spilled. Investigators from EPA and PHMSA determined that the spills were a result of BP Alaska’s failure to properly inspect and maintain the pipeline to prevent corrosion. PHMSA issued a Corrective Action Order to BP Alaska that addressed the pipeline’s risks and ordered pipeline repair or replacement. When BP Alaska did not fully comply with the terms of the corrective action, PHMSA referred the case to the Department of Justice. Today’s settlement also addresses Clean Air Act violations arising out of BP Alaska’s improper asbestos removal along the pipeline in the aftermath of the spill.
Today’s settlement requires BP Alaska to develop a system-wide program to manage pipeline integrity for the company’s 1,600 miles of pipeline on the North Slope based on PHMSA’s integrity management program. The program will address corrosion and other threats to these oil pipelines and require regular inspections and adherence to a risk-based assessment system. The program will cost an estimated $60 million over three years and is in addition to the approximately $200 million BP Alaska has already spent replacing the lines that leaked on the North Slope.
Of the $25 million penalty, $20.05 million will be deposited in the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund established under the Clean Water Act. The remainder, $4.95 million, will be paid to the U.S. Treasury. The funds paid to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund will be used to finance federal response activities and provide compensation for damages sustained from future discharges or threatened discharges of oil into water or adjoining shorelines.
In 2007, BP Alaska pled guilty to one misdemeanor violation of the Clean Water Act for the March 2006 spill and was sentenced to three years probation, ordered to pay a $20 million criminal penalty, including a $12 million fine, $4 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to support research and activities on the North Slope, and $4 million in restitution to the state of Alaska.
The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. For more information on this settlement, click here. www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/cases/civil/cwa/bpnorthslope.html