FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TUESDAY, MARCH 30, 1999
Jim Eppers, EPA: (303) 312-6893
Rich Lathrop, EPA (303) 312-6780
DOJ: (202) 514-2007
TDD (202) 514-1888
DOJ, EPA ANNOUNCE SETTLEMENT WITH YELLOWSTONE, CONOCO
FOR OIL SPILL ON FLATHEAD INDIAN RESERVATION IN MONTANA
Settlement Includes Civil Penalty, Project to Restore Bull Trout
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Yellowstone Pipeline Company and the Conoco Pipeline Company have agreed to implement a project to help save threatened bull trout in Montana and pay a penalty of $165,000 under a settlement announced today by the Justice Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The agreement filed today in U.S. District Court in Missoula settles claims under the Clean Water Act related to a pipeline rupture on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Northwest Montana. The rupture during the winter of 1992-1993 occurred within the Yellowstone Pipeline System, which Yellowstone owns and Conoco operates. Several thousand gallons of oil spilled into and along the banks of Camas Creek, which lies within the reservation, home of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. The spill damaged wildlife and vegetation on the reservation, including damage to the Camas plant, which is culturally significant to the Tribes.
Under the settlement, the companies must design and build a fish passageway alongside a dam and a diversion structure on the Jocko River, which is located within the same watershed as Camas Creek. The fish passageway, a system of pools and steps, is intended to allow bull trout from the Lower Jocko River to reach upstream waters to spawn. Bull trout, federally designated as a threatened species, are in decline, and Montana has named the Jocko River a core restoration area for the fish. While facilitating passage of bull trout, the project also will be designed and operated to preserve one of the few remaining genetically pure populations of westslope cutthroat trout, Montana's state fish. The estimated cost of the project is $130,000. Upon its completion, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have agreed to own and operate the fish passageway.
"This settlement will help protect threatened bull trout in one of their few remaining habitats," said Lois J. Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General for Environment and Natural Resources at the Justice Department. "The project will benefit the ecosystem where the spill occurred."
"We are pleased with this settlement," said William P. Yellowtail, Regional Administrator for EPA's Region VIII. "The companies have been held accountable, and the bull trout project is a solid step toward that species' restoration."
This case is not the first brought against the companies for the Camas Creek oil spill.
In December 1993, the Tribes settled their claim against Yellowstone and Conoco for damages caused by the spill, including injuries to natural resources.
The Yellowstone Pipeline runs from refineries in Billings, Montana, to Moses Lake, Washington, crossing 21 miles of the Flathead Reservation. The portion of the pipeline traversing the Flathead Reservation has been closed since April 1995, when the Tribes declined to renew the right-of-way that permitted operation of the pipeline through the reservation.
The settlement filed today will not become final until notice of the settlement is published in the Federal Register, inviting comments for a period of 30 days, and the court approves the consent decree.