Offshore Oil Platform Operator Agrees to More Than $41 Million in Penalties for Unauthorized Oil Discharges and Improper Operations in Gulf of Mexico
ATP Oil & Gas Corp. Settles U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and EPA Claims in Joint Judicial Enforcement Action under Clean Water Act and Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act
In the continuing joint enforcement action by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and in a separate BSEE administrative action, ATP Oil & Gas Corp. ATP has agreed to resolve actions under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) concerning unauthorized discharges of oil and chemicals from a floating oil and gas production platform into the Gulf of Mexico, announced the Department of Justice, BSEE and EPA. The two agreements impose a combined total of $41.85 million in judicial and administrative penalties for the violations.
The first settlement agreement, lodged today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, resolves all U.S. claims against ATP in a case filed in February 2013. The United States alleges that ATP discharged oil and an unauthorized chemical dispersant into the Gulf of Mexico from ATP’s oil and gas production platform known as the ATP Innovator. A BSEE inspection of the ATP Innovator in March 2012 revealed alleged unlawful discharges of oil and a piping configuration that routed an unpermitted dispersant – a chemical mixture to break up oil – into the facility’s wastewater discharge pipe to mask excess oil being discharged into the ocean. At the time of the discovery, ATP was the operator of the facility and ATP Infrastructure Partners (ATP-IP) was the non-operating owner. The ATP Innovator was operating in the Mississippi Canyon area of the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 45 nautical miles offshore of southeastern Louisiana. The platform was removed from the deepwater production site in 2013 and towed to port in Corpus Christi, Texas. ATP is going through a Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding and is no longer operating. The penalty and injunctive relief claims against ATP-IP were settled last year and approved by the court in May of this year.
The settlement agreement resolves the judicial claims against ATP by imposing a CWA civil penalty of $38 million. Injunctive relief concerns related to the safe future operation of the ATP Innovator were addressed by ATP-IP in a prior settlement.
A related settlement agreement approved today by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas resolves the U.S. claim for judicial and administrative penalties that was filed in the bankruptcy action. Through the settlement, ATP agrees to an allowed unsecured claim of $38 million for the judicial civil penalty judgment specified in the District Court Settlement Agreement.
In addition, ATP agrees in the Bankruptcy Settlement Agreement to an administrative penalty of $3.85 million for related violations of OCSLA regulations. BSEE cited ATP for several violations of OCSLA related to the oil discharges and other improper operations on the platform that were identified during the March 2012 inspection and ATP appealed some of those citations to the Department of the Interior’s Board of Land Appeals (IBLA). Through the Bankruptcy Settlement Agreement, the $3.85 million administrative penalty for the citations will be treated as a final allowed claim in the bankruptcy case.
“ATP’s illegal and unsafe actions in the Gulf of Mexico warrant this concerted enforcement effort to deter it and others in the oil and gas industry from committing similar misconduct,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “No operator should place oil production goals ahead of protection of its workers or the marine environment.”
“This case serves as a reminder that BSEE will thoroughly investigate illegal conduct in offshore oil and gas operations and will aggressively pursue enforcement actions where appropriate,” said Director Brian Salerno of BSEE. “We will continue to work with the Department of Justice, the EPA and our other federal partners to bring these types of actions against companies that break the law and put their workers or the environment at risk.”
“Protecting the Gulf means protecting one of the nation’s most vital economic and ecologic resources,” said Regional Administrator Ron Curry, EPA. “Companies operating in the Gulf must do their part in ensuring it remains as healthy and productive as possible.”
The proposed settlement agreement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court review and approval. A copy of the Settlement Agreement is available on the Department of Justice website at: www.justice.gov/enrd/consent-decrees.