WASHINGTON—A Texas-based pipeline company has agreed to pay a $450,000 civil penalty to the United States to settle allegations that it failed to prepare and maintain proper facility response plans to deal with spills and environmental accidents at eight of its oil storage terminal facilities in Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska.
NuStar Pipeline Operating Partnership LP of San Antonio, Texas, has also agreed to spend an additional $768,000 on a supplemental environmental project to install and operate tank volume monitoring and alarm systems at several of its facilities, according to a consent decree filed today in U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska in Omaha.
Nustar’s affected facilities include those in LeMars, Milford and Rock Rapids, Iowa; Hutchinson and Salina, Kan.; and Columbus, Geneva and Norfolk, Neb. The eight facilities have a combined storage capacity of more than 71 million gallons of oil.
The Clean Water Act requires facilities that store large quantities of oil to develop response plans that outline procedures for addressing "worst-case" discharges of oil. By being prepared and by conducting required response drills, facilities are better situated to prevent environmental harm from such releases.
EPA initially discovered several Nustar facilities did not have facility response plans during inspections in 2006. The company subsequently prepared plans for each of the facilities after EPA initiated an investigation.
"Oil storage and pipeline companies are required to have proper spill prevention and response plans in order to comply with the Clean Water Act," said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "The penalty imposed reflects the serious nature of non-compliance with these important requirements. We are pleased that NuStar has come into compliance with the law and that it will be upgrading its emergency control equipment. We call upon other companies to do the same."
"Protecting Nebraska surface water is achieved by this settlement and a strong message is sent that we will not tolerate disregard for compliance with the Clean Water Act," said Deborah R. Gilg, U.S. Attorney for the District of Nebraska.
"These are some of the largest oil storage terminals not just in the region, but in the United States," Regional Administrator Karl Brooks said. "The importance of complying with requirements for spill responses and emergency preparedness cannot be overstated. Proper preparation for spills and emergencies can help avoid large-scale environmental disasters."
The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final approval by the court. A copy of the consent decree is available on the Justice Department Web site at http://www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.