WASHINGTON — The Meridian Resource & Exploration LLC and Louisiana Onshore Properties LLC (Meridian) will pay a $504,000 civil penalty and enhance the pipeline monitoring and oil spill prevention program at its Weeks Island facility in Iberia Parish, La., to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act, the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today.
The settlement resolves the claims asserted in the complaint, which was filed concurrently with the proposed consent decree. The complaint seeks civil penalties and injunctive relief for five unauthorized discharges of crude oil into waters of the United States between November 2005 and Nov. 1, 2006 from two pipelines and one oil production well at Meridian’s facility. The complaint alleges that approximately 747 barrels of oil (approximately 31,000 gallons) were spilled into or along Weeks Bayou and the Intracoastal Waterway.
Under the consent decree, Meridian has agreed to expand and improve its pipeline monitoring, inspection, and maintenance program, which will include both internal and external corrosion prevention, and to retain an independent consultant to evaluate Meridian’s pipeline maintenance and monitoring efforts. Meridian also has replaced most of the 6" diameter pipeline that was the source of three of the spills.
The Clean Water Act makes it unlawful for owners, operators, or any person in charge of onshore facilities to “discharge oil or any hazardous substance into or upon the navigable waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines.” Enforcement of these provisions supports the Clean Water Act’s objective “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.”
“Today’s settlement advances our enforcement mission to protect the environment and public health from oil spills into our nation’s waters,” said Ronald J. Tenpas, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
“I applaud the efforts of the agents, lawyers, and others who brought these polluters to justice,” said Donald W. Washington, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana. “We are committed to protecting the integrity of the environment through vigorous criminal and civil enforcement actions against those who pollute our air and water. The protection of our environment is vitally necessary to our future prosperity and existence.”
“This settlement holds Meridian accountable for its spills and requires Meridian to take affirmative measures to prevent and respond more quickly to any future unauthorized discharges at this facility,” said Richard Greene, EPA Regional Administrator. “The result is more protection for the coastal Louisiana environment.”
The $504,000 penalty is in addition to the costs incurred by Meridian to respond to the oil spills as they occurred and to replace the leaking pipeline. The penalty paid for these spills will be deposited in the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.
The proposed consent decree, lodged in the Western District of Louisiana, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court review and approval.
A copy of the consent decree is available on the Department of Justice website at http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.