Record of Noncompliance with CWA Ends in Hefty Penalty for Oil Company
In April 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) performed an inspection at an oil storage facility in Ingleside, Texas, that included review of the facility’s physical condition, the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plan and its Facility Response Plan (FRP). Following the inspection, the company was notified by the EPA of deficiencies in the facility’s written plans and additional physical changes that needed to be made at the facility regarding the secondary containment berms for the facility’s crude oil storage tanks that had been breached by equipment and roads.
When the company failed to submit the required updates to its SPCC Plan and FRP by EPA’s October 15, 2008, deadline, the EPA conducted a second inspection of the facility and, according to a Complaint, inspectors found that “other than some larger vegetation that was removed from around the tanks, no apparent changes had been made to the facility since the April 21, 2008 inspection.”
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In early February 2010, the floor of one of the tanks began leaking crude oil and in an attempt to contain the leak, the remaining oil was transferred to another tank. The following day, the second tank also began leaking and the secondary containment failed to contain the spilled oil. Ultimately, the facility discharged at least 92,400 gallons of crude oil from the two tanks into nearby waterways, including an unnamed lake and wetlands near the Intracoastal Waterway and Redfish Bay.
According to the Consent Decree, the company allegedly violated the CWA Section 311(b)(3) of the CWA, which prohibits discharges of oil into or upon navigable waters of the United States and adjacent shorelines, and failed to comply with Section 311(j) regulations that have been codified in 40 CFR Part 112 and are known as the SPCC regulations (Subparts A through C) and FRP regulations (Subpart D).
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The company was assessed a penalty of $1.6 million in addition to paying for cleanup of the release and costs associated with the repair of the tanks and containment areas. In a statement concerning the settlement, Acting Assistant Attorney General Sam Hirsch for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said, “Operators have a responsibility to prevent oil spills and protect the public and the environment through vigilance and preparation. This settlement underscores the consequences of failing to meet that responsibility.”
The penalty paid by the company will be deposited in the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which is managed by the National Pollution Fund Center. Monies in the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund are used to fund federal response activities and for damage compensation from a discharge or substantial threat of a discharge of oil or hazardous substances to waters and adjoining shorelines.
The company has completed all cleanup activities, repaired or taken out of service the damaged storage tanks, repaired the secondary containment areas, and ceased all operations at the facility.