The U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency have leveled a hefty fine at ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. for a 2012 crude oil spill in Louisiana. The company has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $1,437,120 for an alleged violation of the Clean Water Act stemming from a discharge related to its North Line pipeline near Torbert, Louisiana. Under the consent decree lodged Aug. 26 in federal court, ExxonMobil will pay the fine to resolve the government’s claim.
The United States’ complaint, which was also filed Aug. 26 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, alleges that ExxonMobil discharged at least 2,800 barrels (or 117,000 gallons) of crude oil in violation of Section 311 of the Clean Water Act. On April 28, 2012, ExxonMobil’s 20- and 22-in. diamater pipeline ruptured near Torbert, about 20 miles west of Baton Rouge, and crude oil spilled into the surrounding area and flowed into an unnamed tributary connected to Bayou Cholpe.
“All businesses have an obligation to protect their workers, the local community and the environment in which they operate,” said Cynthia Giles, the EPA’s assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance. “EPA is committed to protecting communities by enforcing laws that reduce pollution in local waterways.”
The $1.4 million penalty is in addition to the costs incurred by ExxonMobil to respond to the oil spill and to replace the segment of ruptured pipeline. ExxonMobil is completing cleanup actions pursuant to an administrative order issued by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. The company also continues to do follow-up work and to operate under a Corrective Action Order issued by the United States Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
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 for this spill will be deposited in the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund managed by the National Pollution Fund Center. The Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund is used 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.
The proposed consent decree, lodged in the Middle District of Louisiana, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court review and approval. A copy of the consent decree is available on the Department of Justice website at justice.gov/enrd/Consent_Decrees.html.