Oil Pipeline Firm to Spend $41 Million to Resolve Clean Water Violations

Plains All American Pipeline and several of its operating subsidiaries will spend approximately $41 million over the next three years to prevent and remediate corrosion, improve leak detection practices and capabilities, and enhance pipeline oversight on 10,420 miles of crude oil pipeline operated in the United States, the Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced. The settlement resolves Houston-based Plains’ Clean Water Act violations arising out of 10 crude oil spills in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Kansas and also requires the pipeline company to pay a $3.25 million civil penalty.

Between June 2004 and September 2007, approximately 6,510 barrels of crude oil were discharged from various pipelines and one tank owned and operated by Plains into navigable waters or adjoining shorelines. The 10 spills ranged in size from 2.5 barrels to 4,500 barrels and most were caused by pipeline corrosion.

The Clean Water Act makes it unlawful to discharge oil or hazardous substances into or upon waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines in quantities that may be harmful to the environment or public health.

“The Justice Department is committed to strong enforcement of our nation's laws in order to protect human health and the environment,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This settlement will result in the enhancement of safety measures that will significantly reduce the risk of future pipeline leaks and harm to the environment.”

"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.

As part of the agreement, Plains must take steps to enhance corrosion control, enhance pipeline leak detection, 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 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. A copy of the consent decree is available on the Justice Department website at www.justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.

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