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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Alabama

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Gulf Coast Asphalt Company Enters Guilty Plea To Violations Of The Oil Pollution Act And The Migratory Bird Treaty Act For A 2011 Oil Spill That Went Into The Mobile River

United States Attorney Kenyen R. Brown of the Southern District of Alabama announced that representatives for Gulf Coast Asphalt Company, LLC appeared in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama today. Gulf Coast Asphalt Company, LLC entered a plea to two counts of an information charging violations of the Oil Pollution Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act. These charges relate to an oil spill that occurred on September 1, 2011, and ultimately ended up in the Mobile River.

The information charges that the discharge of oil was caused by an over-fill of oil during a tank to tank transfer when employees pumped oil into the receiving tank under pressure. Because employees miscalculated the tank volume of the receiving tank prior to the transfer and engaged in the transfer of oil without employing proper procedures, the tank ruptured and oil was released into a secondary containment area and ultimately into the Mobile River. The information goes on to charge that because of this discharge of oil the Mobile River was closed to ship and vessel traffic by the United States Coast Guard and fish and wildlife were negatively impacted.

As part of the plea agreement Gulf Coast Asphalt Company, LLC has agreed to pay a total of one million dollars in criminal penalties. $667,000.00 will be paid in a criminal fee. The remaining penalty in the amount of $333,000.00 will be in the form of an organizational community service payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The community service payment shall be applied by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to fund projects for the preservation and restoration of waterways and marine wildlife in and around the Southern District of Alabama.

Gulf Coast Asphalt Company, LLC also agreed to pay restitution in the amount of $292,000.00 to the United States Coast Guard and $75,000.00 to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division.

These penalties and restitution are collected above the statutory requirement under the Oil Pollution Act that the responsible party for the oil spill pays the expense of the environmental cleanup and environmental remediation.

The United States Attorney, Kenyen R. Brown stated, "this settlement is a fair and just resolution to this matter." Brown is pleased that the company agreed to pay an amount to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation that will fund environmental projects here in the Southern District of Alabama. "This outcome could not be achieved without the diligent investigation and efforts of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service)," stated Brown.

"America’s environmental laws are designed to protect clean and safe water sources," said Andy Castro, Acting Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Alabama. "When operators fail to pay attention to required safety procedures and equipment, they not only harm natural resources and communities, they break the law. Given the nature of the violations, it is appropriate that the defendant will pay one-third of a million dollars in community service payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Companies that damage the environment either through negligence or to save money can expect to face prosecution by EPA and its partner agencies."

"South Alabama has one of the most diverse ecological systems in the Southeast, and migratory birds are a key part of this ecosystem. In recent years, migratory bird populations in coastal Alabama have been severely affected by oil spills. This spill is yet another example of how human error has adversely affected migratory bird populations. The Service will continue to be vigilant in the prosecution of corporations and individuals responsible for harming migratory birds," said Luis Santiago, Special Agent in Charge in the Service’s Southeast Region.

"I am impressed with the collaborative efforts demonstrated during this investigation between Service and EPA law enforcement programs. I feel the cooperation displayed during this investigation is largely due to the relationships generated during quarterly Environmental Task Force meetings held by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Alabama. These meetings allow state and federal agencies to meet and discuss environmental investigations and work effectively as a team," said Santiago.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The case was prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama.

Updated August 11, 2015