WASHINGTON – ConocoPhillips, an international energy company, has agreed to pay a $1.2 million civil penalty to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act related to over 2,000 effluent discharges from a petroleum refinery it operates in Borger, Texas, the Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced.
A complaint, filed simultaneously with today’s consent decree, alleges that ConocoPhillips violated effluent limits in its Clean Water Act permit on over 2,000 occasions between 1999 and 2006. The discharges from the facility involved two types of water pollutants—selenium and whole effluent toxicity. Effluent is wastewater and other byproduct that is discharged from refining and other industrial facilities. Whole effluent toxicity refers to the aggregate toxic effect to aquatic organisms from all pollutants contained in a facility's wastewater.
The Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of any pollutant to waters within the United States’ jurisdiction unless the discharge is authorized by a Clean Water Act permit. After the United States took enforcement action, ConocoPhillips brought the refinery into compliance with its Clean Water Act permit limits for both these pollutants.
Today’s agreement, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, requires the company to monitor surrounding waters for selenium levels, including Dixon Creek and the Canadian River, as well as for accumulation of selenium in fish tissue. It also requires ConocoPhillips to maintain the controls that it has already put into place to minimize its selenium discharges and to correct whole effluent toxicity violations. Additionally, ConocoPhillips will perform a Supplemental Environmental Project, estimated to cost approximately $600,000, which will reduce the amount of solids discharged into local waterways during storm events.
“We are pleased that ConocoPhillips has taken steps to resolve these Clean Water Act violations,” said Ronald J. Tenpas, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources. “This settlement will maintain the Borger refinery’s compliance and provides for an appropriate civil penalty as well as a beneficial Supplemental Environmental Project that will improve water quality.”
“It is imperative that business and industry do their part to minimize the possible harm their operations may cause to our environment,” said EPA Regional Administrator Richard E. Greene. “EPA will continue to encourage environmental stewardship and vigorously enforce our laws to ensure our waters are protected for current and future generations.”
The settlement is also signed by WRB Refining, the current owner of the ConocoPhillips-operated refinery.
Today’s agreement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final judicial approval. The decree is available on the Justice Department Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.