WASHINGTON — Plains All American Pipeline L.P. and several of its operating subsidiaries will spend approximately $41 million over the next three years to prevent and remediate corrosion, improve leak detection practices and capabilities, and enhance pipeline oversight on 10,420 miles of crude oil pipeline operated in the United States, the Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today.
The settlement resolves Houston-based Plains’ Clean Water Act violations arising out of 10 crude oil spills in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Kansas and also requires the pipeline company to pay a $3.25 million civil penalty.
Between June 2004 and September 2007, approximately 6,510 barrels of crude oil were discharged from various pipelines and one tank owned and operated by Plains into navigable waters or adjoining shorelines. The 10 spills ranged in size from 2.5 barrels to 4,500 barrels and most were caused by pipeline corrosion. Oil spills are known to cause both immediate and long-term harm to human health and ecosystems, including the suffocation of wildlife and the contamination of nesting habitats.
The Clean Water Act makes it unlawful to discharge oil or hazardous substances into or upon waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines in quantities that may be harmful to the environment or public health. The penalty paid for this spill will be deposited in the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund and will be used to pay for federal response activities and to compensate for damages when there is a discharge or substantial threat of discharge of oil or hazardous substances to waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines.
“The Justice Department is committed to strong enforcement of our nation's laws in order to protect human health and the environment,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This settlement will result in the enhancement of safety measures that will significantly reduce the risk of future pipeline leaks and harm to the environment.”
"In the last year alone, transportation pipelines released more than two million gallons of oil into the environment, posing a serious threat to human health and natural habitats," said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
"These spills - and the recent pipeline spill in the Kalamazoo River - remind us that we must be diligent in our enforcement efforts and work to ensure that companies are meeting their environmental obligations."
As part of the agreement, Plains must take steps to enhance corrosion control, enhance pipeline leak detection and provide proper training for personnel. In addition, Plains must ensure that all breakout tanks used to replace or substitute existing tanks that relieve pipeline surges have adequate capacity to contain such surges and are properly located within secondary containment.
According to recent pipeline spill reports, in the last year, more than 50,000 barrels (2.1 million gallons) of oil spilled from transportation pipelines across the nation. EPA’s enforcement responses to spills that affect waters of the United States under the Clean Water Act are critical to ensure that responsible companies are penalized for these spills and required to take appropriate actions to reduce the potential for future spills.
The consent decree, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. A copy of the consent decree is available on the Justice Department website at: www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html .