Multi-Million $ Oil Spills Settlement

Source: Artinun Prekmoung - 123RF

DALLAS – In the latest joint federal-state Clean Water Act enforcement action, Sunoco Pipeline L.P. has agreed to pay civil penalties and state enforcement costs and to implement corrective measures to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and state environmental laws by Sunoco and Mid-Valley Pipeline Company stemming from three crude oil spills in 2013, 2014, and 2015, in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.

Under a proposed consent decree lodged in the U.S. District Court for 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 LDEQ $436,274.20 for civil penalties and response costs to resolve claims asserted in a complaint filed today.

Additionally, Sunoco agreed to take actions to prevent future spills, by identifying and remediating the types of problems that caused the prior spills. This includes performing pipeline inspections and repairing pipeline defects that could lead to future spills.

Sunoco is also required to take steps to prevent and detect corrosion in pipeline segments that Sunoco is no longer using.

Mid-Valley, the owner of the pipeline that spilled oil in Louisiana, is responsible, along with Sunoco, for payment of the civil penalties and state costs relating to the Louisiana spill.

The complaint alleges federal and state claims relating to three crude oil spills:

  • A 2013 spill of 550 barrels in Tyler County, Texas;
  • A 2014 spill of approximately 4,500 barrels in Caddo Parish, near Mooringsport, Louisiana; and
  • A 2015 spill of 40 barrels in Grant County, Oklahoma.

The Texas spill affected Russell Creek, which flows to the Neches River. The Louisiana spill—the largest of the three—flowed to Tete Bayou, a tributary of Caddo Lake. The Oklahoma spill flowed into two creeks that flow to the Arkansas River, affecting an area of about a half a mile.

All three spills resulted from pipeline corrosion.

The Clean Water Act makes it 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. Those funds will be available to pay for federal response activities and to compensate for damages when there is a discharge or substantial threat of discharge of oil or hazardous substances to waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines.