Pipeline Firm to Pay $1.3 M to Resolve Oil Discharges in Lake

Pacific Pipeline Systems LLP, a Long Beach, Calif.-based oil transport company, has agreed to pay a $1.3 million civil penalty and discontinue the use of a section of pipeline through an unstable section of mountains to resolve a Clean Water Act violation, announced the Justice Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"The United States brought this case to protect an important body of water, Pyramid Lake," said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General for DOJ's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "Through this Clean Water Act settlement, we are protecting Pyramid Lake from future oil spills and receiving a significant civil penalty from Pacific Pipeline."

The agreement resolves a complaint filed in federal court in Los Angeles for the discharge of crude oil into Pyramid Lake, located about 60 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. In March 2005, a landslide caused a portion of Pacific Pipeline's Line 63, an underground pipeline that runs from Bakersfield, Calif., to Los Angeles, to fail. According to DOJ and EPA, the resulting pipeline break discharged approximately 3,393 barrels of oil, much of which flowed into Pyramid Lake, which is part of the California Aqueduct and is a potential drinking water supply. Water served through the public water system was not impaired by the discharge.

As part of the agreement, Pacific Pipeline will discontinue use of approximately 70 miles of the Line 63 pipeline that travels through the Tehachapi Mountains, portions of which are geologically unstable. The agreement does allow for the reuse of the pipeline. Prior to that, Pacific Pipeline must perform specific actions to relocate the pipeline into more geologically stable areas or improve its resistance to earth movement.

The consent decree, lodged Jan. 20 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. A copy of the consent decree is available on DOJ's Web site.

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