Pipeline company to pay record fine for oil spill

Colonial Pipeline Company (CPC), operator of the largest-volume hazardous liquid pipeline in the world, has pleaded guilty to criminal charges in connection with a spill of over three and a half million litres of oil into the Reedy River in South Carolina.

For its role in causing the sixth-largest oil spill in US history, CPC will pay a record fine of $7 million dollars and serve a five-year term of probation.

CPC acknowledged that its actions led to spill of about 3,633,600 litres of diesel fuel, affecting a 23-mile segment of the Reedy River. The spill killed about 35,000 fish and also affected wildlife such as beaver, muskrat and turtles, which died as a result of direct contact with the spilled oil.

During the five-year term of probation, CPC must develop and implement an extensive environmental compliance program to prevent and detect any further violations of the CWA on the entire 5,318-mile pipeline that runs from Houston, Texas, to Linden, New Jersey. The court also required the company to make presentations to national pipeline associations regarding the obligations such pipelines have under the CWA.

“This criminal prosecution demonstrates the willingness of the United States to use all available tools in the protection of our environment,” US Attorney for the District of South Carolina René Josey said. “This prosecution and the resulting punishment will serve to remind those who would spoil our precious natural resources that the federal government will enforce the law and pursue those responsible.”

Colonial is owned by several of the world’s largest oil companies. Shareholders include Mobil, Amoco, and Texaco. CPC pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour charge of violating the Clean Water Act (CWA) when it failed to exercise reasonable care leading to the rupture of its pipeline where it crosses the Reedy River near Simpsonville, South Carolina.

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