Justice Sues BPXA for Oil Spills, Asbestos Violations

The United States filed a civil complaint against BP Exploration (Alaska, BPXA) Inc. alleging that the company violated federal clean air and water laws, the Justice Department, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Department of Transportation announced on March 31.

According to the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Anchorage, Alaska, BPXA illegally discharged more than 200,000 gallons of crude oil from its pipelines onto the North Slope of Alaska during two major oil spills in the spring and summer of 2006. The complaint alleges that BPXA failed to prepare and implement spill prevention, countermeasure and control plans in accordance with good engineering practices and failed to implement certain required spill prevention measures pursuant to the Clean Water Act.

The complaint also alleges that BPXA violated the Clean Air Act by improperly removing asbestos-containing materials from its pipelines and failed to comply in a timely manner with a Corrective Action Order that the Department of Transportation-Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) issued to BPXA pursuant to federal pipeline safety laws. PHMSA's order required BPXA to conduct certain testing, inspection, maintenance, and repair activities.

The lawsuit, filed by the Justice Department on behalf of EPA and PHMSA, asks the court to order BPXA to take all appropriate action to prevent spills in the future, including systemically inspecting its pipelines and associated facilities for corrosion. The United States also seeks civil penalties up to the maximum amount authorized by law.

This civil action follows a guilty plea by BPXA on Nov. 29, 2007, to one count of criminal negligent discharge of oil to the waters of the United States in violation of the Clean Water Act.

BPXA, a wholly-owned subsidiary of BP America, conducts oil exploration, drilling, and production in Alaska. Both major spills that are the subject of this case happened in Prudhoe Bay, which is the largest oil field in North America and one of the oldest on the North Slope.