BP Exploration convicted of illegal waste disposal in Alaska

BP Exploration (BPXA) has been found guilty of illegal disposal of hazardous waste on Alaska's North Slope. The US subsidiary of BP Amoco has been ordered to pay more than $6.5 million in civil and criminal fines.

BPXA has been convicted of failing to notify authorities of the release of hazardous substances by employees of its contractor Doyon Drilling. Investigation established that between 1993 and 1995 Doyon Drilling employees illegally discharged waste oil and hazardous substances by injecting them down the outer rim of oil wells on Endicott Island. The illegally-discharged wastes included paint thinner and toxic solvents containing lead, benzene, toluene and methylene chloride.

The fine relating to the criminal case was set at $500,000. “This has been one of the largest and most complex criminal investigations ever conducted in Alaska,” said Robert Bundy, US Attorney for the District of Alaska.

In addition to the criminal case, civil damages have been settled with BPXA bringing the total fines payable to more than $6.5 million.

As part of its plea agreement with the US Department of Justice, BPXA admitted that it failed to provide adequate oversights, audits and funding to ensure proper environmental management on Endicott Island.

Endicott Island is a man made island created to allow oil field exploitation in the Beaufort Sea.

Another stipulation of BPXA’s plea agreement involves the mandatory implementation of a $15 million environmental management system for all its facilities in the USA and the Gulf of Mexico.

Commenting on the settlement, Richard Campbell, president of BPXA, apologised for the pollution but asserted that little environmental damage had been done. “We do not believe that these improper disposals resulted in harm to the environment. These materials were not dumped on the surface or stored in pits,” he said.

According to BP Amoco its goals are “No accident, no harm to people and no damage to the environment”. The company’s Environmental Record states that “all hazardous waste is shipped by licensed transporters to licenced disposal or recycling facilities in the lower 48 states”.

The multi-million dollar fine comes only weeks after employees of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System , owned in part by BP Amoco, alleged that poor environmental management threatens the safety of the pipeline and the Alaskan environment (see related story).

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