Environmental Protection

Corrosion a Problem, Plains Pipeline to Upgrade 10,000 Miles of Line

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department announced that Plains All American Pipeline and several of its operating subsidiaries have agreed to spend approximately $41 million to upgrade 10,420 miles of crude oil pipeline operated in the United States.

The settlement resolves Plains’ Clean Water Act violations for 10 crude oil spills in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Kansas, and requires the company to pay a $3.25 million civil penalty.

“In the last year alone, transportation pipelines released more than two million gallons of oil into the environment, posing a serious threat to human health and natural habitats,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “These spills ─ and the recent pipeline spill in the Kalamazoo River ─ remind us that we must be diligent in our enforcement efforts and work to ensure that companies are meeting their environmental obligations.”

Between June 2004 and September 2007, more than 273,000 gallons of crude oil were discharged from various pipelines and one tank owned and operated by Plains, some of which entered navigable waters or adjoining shorelines. The spills ranged in size from 2.5 barrels to 4,500 barrels and most were caused by pipeline corrosion.

As part of the agreement, Plains, based in Houston, must take steps to:

  • replace or install corrosion control equipment,
  • perform pipeline inspections,
  • assess the integrity of newly acquired pipelines,
  • improve leak detection practices and capabilities, and
  • provide proper training for personnel.

In addition, Plains must ensure that all breakout tanks used to replace or substitute existing tanks that relieve pipeline surges have adequate capacity to contain such surges and are properly located within secondary containment.

The $3.25 million penalty will be deposited in the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. The funds will be used to finance federal response activities and provide compensation for damages sustained from future discharges or threatened discharges of oil into water or adjoining shorelines. Oil spills are known to cause both immediate and long-term harm to human health and ecosystems, including the suffocation of wildlife and the contamination of nesting habitats

According to recent pipeline spill reports, in the last year, more than 50,000 barrels (2.1 million gallons) of oil spilled from transportation pipelines across the nation.

The consent decree, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.

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