Environmental/Nov 5, 2014

Texas Company Agrees to Pay $1.6 Million Penalty for Oil Spill and SPCC Violations

A Consent Decree was filed on October 29, 2014, in which Superior Crude Gathering, Inc. (Superior) agreed to pay a civil penalty of $1.6 million to resolve its Clean Water Act violations.

Superior purchased crude oil from producers in south Texas, after which it sold that crude oil to refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast. Superior leased three large aboveground tanks within the former Falcon Refinery in Ingleside, Texas, from which it conducted loading and unloading activities between trucks, the aboveground tanks, and barges. In April of 2008, EPA conducted an inspection of Superior’s facility, including the adequacy of and compliance with the Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) and Facility Response Plan (FRP) requirements of the Clean Water Act. Following the EPA inspection, Superior received a Notice Letter from the EPA which set forth the deficiencies noted in the inspection and provided approximately six months for Superior to cure the deficiencies and update its SPCC plan and FRP. Superior did not update its plans by the October 2008 deadline. In October of 2009, EPA conducted a follow-up inspection and found that few changes had been made to the Superior facility since April of 2008. On February 9, 2010, one of the three aboveground tanks operated by Superior began to leak rapidly, upon which Superior transferred the remaining oil from the leaking tank (known as Tank 13) to another of its tanks (Tank 15). On February 10, 2010, Tank 15 began leaking crude as well, and the secondary containment areas for both tanks failed to contain the spilled crude, which flowed into other containment areas, over land and into the adjacent unnamed creek and wetlands, which are ultimately connected to Redfish Bay and the Intercoastal Waterway about ½ mile from Superior’s facility.

Superior represents that it has cleaned up the oil spill, repaired or taken out of service the damaged storage tanks, repaired secondary containment areas, and ceased operations at the facility.

This case illustrates the importance of developing and finalizing the necessary written plans (e.g. SPCC, FRP, etc.) in a timely manner – don’t wait for an inspection and notices of violation from the regulatory agency! If you are inspected, be responsive to the timeframes and deadlines given to bring your company into compliance. Waiting to take action until after a spill occurs will result in the regulatory agency taking enforcement, including daily fines and penalties assessed back to the original date that compliance was due.

To read the complaint, click on the following link: http://www.justice.gov/enrd/ConsentDecrees/ENV_ENFORCEMENT-2483689-v1-Filed_Complaint.PDF

To read the consent decree, click on the following link: http://www.justice.gov/enrd/ConsentDecrees/ENV_ENFORCEMENT-2483687-v1-Lodged_Consent_Decree.PDF

 

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