The federal government and the State of Alaska have each filed separate lawsuits against BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. over two oil spills at the nation’s largest oil field. The March, 2006 spill, along with a smaller spill five months later, ultimately caused two acres of tundra and a frozen lake to be covered in crude oil. The spill was caused by an almond-sized leak in one of the company’s pipes which had not been examined for erosion since 1998. In 2007, BP pleaded guilty to one violation of the Clean Water Act and agreed to pay $20 million in fines related to the spill. BP also admitted that it had failed to perform adequate assessments on the pipelines and had not mitigated the development of corrosion which led to the leaks.
The federal government’s lawsuit, filed by the Justice Department on behalf of the Department of Transportation-Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, alleges violations of federal clean air and water laws. Specifically, it alleges that BP discharged more than 200,000 gallons of crude oil onto Alaska’s North Slope in violation of federal law and that the company failed to implement spill prevention and control plans in accordance with good engineering practices. Additionally, the suit claims that BP violated the Clean Air Act by improperly removing materials containing asbestos from its pipelines and failing to comply with orders from the Department of Transportation to conduct certain testing, inspection, maintenance and repairs. The suit asks the court to impose stiff penalties and order BP to take actions to prevent future spills.
The state’s lawsuit alleges violations of state environmental laws and loss of revenue for the state. Alaska is seeking restitution for its lost revenues during this period as well as for the reconstruction of a pipeline system. About 90% of Alaska’s revenue comes from oil taxes and royalties. Between 2006 and 2008 oil production was slowed due to the spills. It is estimated that the spill caused a shortfall of about 35 million barrels.
Source: Associated Press
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