New Orleans Steamboat Company and Employee Plead Guilty and Sentenced for Discharging Ballast Material into the Industrial Canal
NEW ORLEANS – United States Attorney Peter G. Strasser announced that on January 15, 2021 a grand jury indicted PATRICK HUSE, age 40, of Perkinston, Mississippi, for criminal conduct related to oil extraction in the Gulf of Mexico.
According to the eight-count Indictment, HUSE engaged in criminal conduct on an oil platform known as Main Pass 310A (“MP-310A”). In July 2015, workers on MP-310A noticed a sheen on the surface of the surface of the water surrounding the platform. The sheen meant that the platform was discharging oil or other hazardous substances into the Gulf of Mexico. The workers alerted HUSE, who was a Person-In-Charge (“PIC”) on MP-310A. The workers told HUSE that they believed the sheen was the result of sand buildup in filtration equipment on MP-310A. Rather than shutting-in the platform to repair or replace the filtration equipment, HUSE ordered certain wells closed but otherwise kept the platform operating. This caused further sheening. The sheening continued for another four days until a worker finally activated an emergency shutdown device to stop the sheening. HUSE then instructed the workers to lie to federal regulators about the reason for the emergency shutdown.
The Indictment further alleges that HUSE made false statements in an inspection log kept on MP-310A by Company A, the company that employed HUSE. Federal regulations and rules required Company A to travel to and inspect an unmanned platform in the same area as MP-310A every day, and to physically board the unmanned platform for inspection at least once a week. HUSE told operators to falsely state in the inspection log that they had inspected the unmanned platform when, in reality, no such inspections occurred. HUSE also made his own false entries in the inspection records. The misrepresentations in the inspection records gave the artificial impression that Company A and HUSE were complying with federal regulations.
HUSE is charged in Count 1 of the Indictment with negligently discharging oil and other hazardous substances from MP-310A into the Gulf of Mexico, in violation of Title 33, United States Code, Section 1321(b)(3) and 1319(c)(1)(A). Count 2 charges HUSE with knowingly discharging oil and other hazardous substances from MP-310A into the Gulf of Mexico, in violation of Title 33, United States Code, Section 1321(b)(3) and 1319(c)(2)(A). Count 3 charges HUSE with failure to immediately report the discharge to the appropriate federal agency, in violation of Title 33, United States Code, Section 1321(b)(5). Counts 4 through 8 charges HUSE with making false statements in inspection logs, in violation of Title 43, United States Code, Section 1350(c)(2). If convicted for Counts 1 through 8, HUSE faces a range of imprisonment from one to ten years. Additionally, HUSE faces fines ranging from $2,500 to $250,000 per day of violation, maximum terms of supervised release from one year to three years, and mandatory special assessment fees ranging from $25 to $100. The Indictment includes a Notice of Forfeiture against HUSE.
United States Attorney Strasser stated that an Indictment is merely an accusation and that the guilt of the defendant must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
United States Attorney Strasser praised the work of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior Office of Inspector General, Energy Investigations Unit, in investigating this matter. Assistant United States Attorneys Spiro G. Latsis and J. Ryan McLaren are in charge of the prosecution.
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