Oil spill results in $1.4 million penalty against ExxonMobil Pipeline

A 2012 oil spill in Pointe Coupee Parish resulted in a $1.4 million penalty against ExxonMobil Pipeline Co.

In a consent decree between U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Exxon does not admit any of the facts alleged by the federal government in its complaint, which also was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Middle District in Louisiana.

The proposed agreement will be open for a 30-day comment period once it’s been published in the Federal Register.

The agreement was reached in the aftermath of a spill of about 2,800 barrels — or about 117,000 gallons — that occurred in April 2012 in a rural area of Pointe Coupee Parish. According to reports at the time, the pipeline near Torbet, about 20 miles west of Baton Rouge, was shut down after a loss of pressure in the pipeline indicated a leak was occurring.

The spilled oil ended up running over the ground and into an unnamed waterway that eventually connected to Bayou Cholpe, according to the consent decree. This 22-inch pipeline carries oil from St. James Parish to north Louisiana and feeds into the Mid-Valley pipeline.

“The spilled oil contaminated the surrounding soil and polluted the waterways. The oil impacted aquatic vegetation, tributary banks and surface water,” according to a complaint by the Department of Justice on Tuesday. “Dead fish and wildlife were observed in the spill area.”

The ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. removed and repaired the section of pipe that broke, committed to cleaning up impacted land and waterway, and doing follow-up work on the pipeline as required by another order from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, the consent decree says.

“ExxonMobil Pipeline Company can confirm that it has entered a Consent Decree with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to resolve civil Clean Water Act claims related to the April 2012 North Line incident. From the beginning, EMPCo has worked cooperatively with all appropriate agencies,” Christian Flathman, spokeswoman for ExxonMobil Corp., said in a statement. “We believe that this settlement provides for an acceptable outcome that avoids protracted litigation between the parties. Safety is always our priority, and we are committed to operating in a safe and responsible manner.”

Filed under the Clean Water Act, the payments will go into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund which helps pay for national response to oil spills in the country.

“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,” EPA reported.

The company is finishing up cleanup work as directed by an administrative order from the state Department of Environmental Quality.

Follow Amy Wold on Twitter, @awold10.