Environmental Law

US Sues BP Sub Over Alaska Oil Spills, Seeks Maximum Penalties

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The U.S. Department of Justice has filed suit against a subsidiary of a global oil company, contending that two discharges totaling some 200,000 gallons of crude oil into Prudhoe Bay on Alaska’s North Slope in 2006 violated federal clean air and water laws and seeking maximum penalties.

Filed in federal court in Anchorage yesterday against BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation, the litigation seeks a court order requiring the company to take action to prevent such spills in the future, reports Reuters.

The complaint accuses the BP PLC subsidiary of taking inadequate measures to “to prepare and implement spill prevention,” as required under the Clean Water Act. It also alleges that the subsidiary didn’t comply in a timely manner with federally ordered tests, inspection and repairs and “improperly” removed asbestos-containing materials from its pipelines, in violation of the Clean Air Act, reports the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.).

Although the suit doesn’t specify the monetary damages sought, the DOJ says it is seeking the maximum civil penalties allowed by law, Reuters reports.

A similar suit also was filed Tuesday by the state of Alaska in state superior court in Anchorage, reports the Anchorage Daily News.

“We have taken significant steps to ensure that our operations are safe and reliable, and protect the environment,” says spokesman Steve Rinehart of BP Exploration Alaska. “Those include building a new $500 million system of oil transit lines at Prudhoe Bay.”

He declined to comment on the legal issues, the Anchorage newspaper reports.

The litigation follows a guilty plea late in 2007 by BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. to federal pollution misdemeanor, the Daily News notes. The company was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay than $20 million in penalties.

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