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Fact Sheet: Prosecution of Environmental Crimes by the Environment and Natural Resources Division
The Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD)
has 40 prosecutors who enforce federal environmental laws, including the Clean
Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the
Lacey Act, and the Endangered Species Act, among other statutes.
The results obtained in environmental criminal cases prosecuted by ENRD in
2006 were at near-record levels for jail terms imposed on individuals (67.3
years total) and dollar amounts of criminal penalties, restitution and funding
for conditions of probation ($70.5 million). With the results obtained today,
ENRD is on pace to have another strong year in 2007.
In addition to ENRD prosecutors, U.S. Attorney’s Offices also bring
environmental crimes cases. While there was a temporary drop in the number of
overall environmental defendants charged Department-wide immediately after
2001, there was a subsequent rebound and recent years have generally been
consistent with pre-2001 numbers. ENRD’s criminal indictments and convictions
have remained steady throughout the last decade.
Prosecuting environmental crimes is only one aspect of the Division’s
overall environmental enforcement. Among other initiatives, the Division has
an initiative to bring refineries into compliance with the Clean Air Act.
Currently, 85 percent of the refinery industry is under settlement agreements
to reduce the amount of harmful emissions released each year in compliance with
the law. This will cut the amount of harmful emissions of nitrous oxide by
85,000 tons per year and sulfur dioxide by 240,000 tons per year.
The Justice Department is dedicated to environmental
results—large, complex cases that obtain meaningful relief for the
* * *
Today, Acting Attorney General Peter Keisler and Ronald J. Tenpas, Acting
Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division,
announced guilty pleas and a combined $70 million in criminal fines, community
service and restitution against two British Petroleum subsidiaries for
environmental violations in Texas and Alaska.
Texas City Refinery
- On March 23, 2005, a catastrophic explosion occurred at the BP Texas
City refinery when hydrocarbon vapor and liquid was released out of a “blowdown
stack” and reached an ignition source, believed to be a pickup truck with its
engine running. The 15 contractor employees killed at the BP Texas City
refinery were located in temporary trailers approximately 150 feet from the
- The deceased were Glenn Bolton, Lorena Cruz-Alexander, Rafael Herrera,
Daniel Hogan, Jimmy Hunnings, Morris King, Larry Linsenbardt, Arthur Ramos,
Ryan Rodriguez, James Rowe, Linda Rowe, Kimberly Smith, Susan Taylor, Larry
Thomas, and Eugene White. The explosion also caused the injuries to over 170
other workers at the Texas City refinery.
- BP admitted that beginning in 1999 and continuing through the morning of
March 23, 2005, several procedures required under the provision of the Clean
Air Act specifically enacted to prevent accidental releases that are known or
may reasonably be anticipated to cause death, injury or serious adverse effects
to human health or the environment had either not been established or were
being ignored. Operators, with the knowledge of supervisors, regularly failed
to follow written standard operating procedures that required sending excess
hydrocarbons to a flare where they could be safely burned off before being
released to the open air.
- BP admitted that it had failed to perform a relief valve study to
determine whether the blowdown stack had the capacity to safely release excess
hydrocarbons. The blowdown stack itself had been in poor operating condition
since at least April of 2003. Alarms in failed to function, or were ignored.
- BP also admitted that it had become a regular practice at BP to locate
temporary trailers occupied by contractor employees near the blowdown stacks,
even though BP knew that there had been previous releases of liquid
hydrocarbons from the blowdown stacks. Ultimately, BP failed to inform
contractors of the potential for fire or explosion near the blowdown stack.
- BP will pay a $50 million criminal fine, the largest criminal fine ever
under the Clean Air Act.
- The company will also face three years of probation, during which time
it will be required to complete a facility-wide relief valve study under a
settlement agreement with OSHA. Under an agreement to be completed with the
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), BP will be required to
implement facility-wide renovations of its flare systems to prevent excess
unplanned emissions as required by the Clean Air Act. These conditions of
probation are estimated to cost BP $265 million. If BP fails to complete the
requirements, its probation could be revoked or extended.
Prudhoe Bay Alaska
- In March 2006 a pipeline spill occurred over an unknown time period, but
likely occurred over a period of about five days. There were approximately
200,000 gallons (4,800 barrels) spilled that covered over two acres. The spill
was discovered by a BPXA employee on March 2, 2006.
- In August 2006 a pipeline spill occurred over a period of one day.
There were approximately 1000 gallons (25 barrels) spilled that covered less
than an acre.
This second leak led to the shut down of Prudhoe Bay oil production on the
eastern side of the field.
- As part of the guilty plea BPXA will pay a $12 million criminal
- BPXA will pay $4 million in community service payments to the National
Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) for the purpose of conducting research and
activities in support of the arctic environment in the state of Alaska on the
- BPXA will pay $4 million in criminal restitution to the state of
They will also serve a three-year term of probation. The plea agreement
provides benchmarks to reduce the length of probation. They are:
1. Making significant progress replacing lines like the ones that
leaked; 2. Implementing an integrity management plan; and 3. Improving leak
detection capabilities on the North Slope.