Plains All American Pipeline and several subsidiaries will spend about $41 million to upgrade 10,420 miles of crude-oil pipeline and pay a $3.25 million civil penalty for 10 crude-oil spills in four states.
The settlement resolves Plains’ Clean Water Act violations for the spills in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Kansas, federal officials announced this week.
Between June 2004 and September 2007, more than 273,000 barrels of crude oil were discharged from various pipelines and one tank owned and operated by Plains, some of which entered navigable waters or adjoining shorelines. The 10 spills ranged in size from 2.5 barrels to 4,500 barrels; most were caused by pipeline corrosion.
As part of the agreement, Plains, based in Houston, must take steps to replace or install corrosion control equipment, perform pipeline inspections, assess the integrity of newly acquired pipelines, improve leak detection practices and capabilities, and provide proper training for personnel.
In addition, Plains must ensure that all breakout tanks used to replace or substitute existing tanks that relieve pipeline surges have adequate capacity to contain such surges and are properly located within secondary containment.
The $3.25 million penalty will be deposited in the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. The funds will be used to finance federal response activities and provide compensation for damages sustained from future discharges or threatened discharges of oil into water or adjoining shorelines. The Clean Water Act makes it unlawful to discharge harmful quantities of oil or hazardous substances into waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines.
“In the last year alone, transportation pipelines released more than two million gallons of oil into the environment, posing a serious threat to human health and natural habitats,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
“These spills—and the recent pipeline spill in the Kalamazoo River—remind us that we must be diligent in our enforcement efforts and work to ensure that companies are meeting their environmental obligations.”
The settlement “will result in the enhancement of safety measures that will significantly reduce the risk of future pipeline leaks and harm to the environment,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
The consent decree, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.
For more information, visit www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/cases/civil/cwa/plainspipeline.html.