ExxonMobil has agreed to pay a $1.4 million civil penalty for violating the Clean Water Act in a 2012 crude oil spill near Torbert, La. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the settlement involving the pipeline. 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, according to the government.
It was alleged by the government that ExxonMobil had discharged at least 2,800 barrels – 117,000 gallons – of crude oil, in violation of Section 311 of the Clean Water Act. On April 28, 2012, ExxonMobil’s North Line pipeline ruptured near Torbert, about 20 miles west of Baton Rouge, and oil spilled into the surrounding area and flowed into an unnamed tributary connected to the nearby Bayou Cholpe. Cynthia Giles, EPA assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance, said in a statement:
All businesses have an obligation to protect their workers, the local community and the environment in which they operate. EPA is committed to protecting communities by enforcing laws that reduce pollution in local waterways.
ExxonMobil is currently cleaning up the aftermath of the spill under an administrative order issued by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. The government said the company also continued to do follow-up work and to operate under a corrective action order issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Sam Hirsch, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, said in a statement:
Oil spills into our nation’s waters endanger public health and the environment and warrant concerted enforcement efforts. Today’s settlement achieves a just result and furthers our enforcement mission.
The Clean Water Act makes it illegal to discharge oil or hazardous substances into the United States’ navigable waters or shorelines in quantities that may harm the environment or public health. The penalty to be paid by ExxonMobil will be deposited in the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund managed by the National Pollution Fund Center. The fund is used to pay for federal response activities and to compensate for damages when there is a discharge or substantial threat of one. The proposed consent decree, filed in the Middle District of Louisiana, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and court review and approval.
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