(KSLA) - Years after three oil spills in three states, a company has to agree to pay up.
Sunoco Pipeline L.P. will pay civil penalties, state enforcement costs and will implement corrective measures to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and state environmental laws under a proposed consent decree lodged on Jan. 30 in the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Louisiana.
Sunoco will pay the United States $5 million in federal civil penalties for the Clean Water Act violations and pay Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality $436,274.20 for civil penalties and response costs to resolve claims asserted in a complaint.
The company will take actions to prevent future spills.
The incidents stem from allegations from Sunoco and Mid-Valley Pipeline Company crude oil spills in 2013, 2014 and 2015 in Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana.
“This settlement holds Sunoco and Mid-Valley accountable for the harms to the environment caused by their oil spills and requires Sunoco to improve its environmental safety compliance for the oil pipelines that it operates in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, in a news release.
“This excellent result shows how a strong federal and state partnership can bring about effective environmental enforcement to protect local communities in these states,” Bossert Clark said.
In 2013, 550 barrels of crude oil was spilled in Tyler County Texas. In 2014 a spill of approximately 4,500 barrels were spilled in Caddo Parish near Mooringsport, Louisiana and a 2015 spill in Grant County, Oklahoma were 40 barrels were spilled.
The Louisiana spill—the largest of the three—flowed to Tete Bayou, a tributary of Caddo Lake.
The Texas spill affected Russell Creek, which flows to the Neches River; and in Oklahoma, the spill flowed into two creeks that connect to the Arkansas River. Only about half a mile of area was affected.
The cause of all three spills were from pipeline corrosion.
“Pipelines are generally a very safe medium for transporting crude oil, but like any other infrastructure, pipelines require maintenance and monitoring. When companies neglect these necessary actions, pipelines can weaken and a spill can occur, which results in damage to the environment,” said LDEQ Secretary Dr. Chuck Carr Brown, in a news release.
According to The Clean Water Act, it is unlawful to discharge oil or hazardous substances into or upon the navigable waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines in quantities that may be harmful to the environment or public health.
The penalty paid to the United States will be deposited in the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund managed by the National Pollution Funds Center.
In turn, those funds will be available to pay for federal response activities when incidents such as spills happen in the United States or adjoining shorelines.