FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
FRIDAY, MAY 17, 2002
TDD (202) 514-1888
UNITED STATES AND CALIFORNIA ANNOUNCE SETTLEMENT
FOR SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA OIL SPILL
$3 Million To Restore Natural Resources And For Penalties For Oil Spill
WASHINGTON, D.C.– Under a settlement agreement filed yesterday, three energy companies have agreed to pay $3 million to the United States and the state of California for civil penalties and restoration of natural resources damaged by an oil spill from an offshore pipeline along the coast of Southern California in 1997.
Under the settlement, Torch Energy Company, Nuevo Energy Company and Black Hawk Oil & Gas Company will pay $2,397,000 for natural resource damage claims, $299,000 for penalties to state agencies, and $304,300 for penalties to federal agencies. The damages money will be used by federal and state agencies to repair and enhance injured resources, such as restoring sand dunes at Vandenberg Air Force Base, improving the health of abalone and mussel populations and reducing disturbances to seabird colonies during nesting seasons.
The three companies owned or operated an off-shore oil drilling platform nicknamed "Irene"and the pipeline that carries oil from the platform to a production facility near Lompoc, Calif. On the night of September 28, 1997, at least 163 barrels of oil was discharged from a broken portion of the pipeline into the Pacific Ocean. Response efforts were carried out under the direction of a Unified Command comprised of the U.S. Coast Guard, the California Department of Fish and Game's Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) and Torch Energy Company.
Over the next several days, oil came ashore at sandy beaches and rocky intertidal areas along at least 17 miles of coastline. Some stretches of the beach had more than 50 percent of their surface area below the high tide line covered with oil. Invertebrate species such as sand crabs and Pismo clams were killed, and up to 800 birds were impacted, including endangered brown pelicans, threatened western snowy plovers, common murre, Brandt's cormorant and 18 other species.
Negotiating the settlement with the three companies were the United States Justice Department, on behalf of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of the Interior, the Air Force, and the Environmental Protection Agency; and the California Attorney General, on behalf of the California Department of Fish and Game, the California State Lands Commission, and the California Coastal Commission. The agencies pursued legal remedies under the Oil Pollution Act, the Federal Clean Water Act, California's Lempert-Keene-Seastrand Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act and several other State and Federal statutes. The governments and responsible parties performed a cooperative assessment of the natural resource damages and reached the settlement through mediation.
The consent decree was lodged in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, and is subject to a 30-day public comment period.