ConocoPhillips, Sasol North America to Reimburse Estuary Cleanup Costs

The Department of Justice, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U. S. Attorney’s Office announced recently the settlement of claims against ConocoPhillips Company and Sasol North America Inc. to resolve their liability under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act for contamination in the Calcasieu Estuary of Louisiana.

The Justice Department also announced a settlement of claims for natural resource damages against ConocoPhillips Company and Sasol North America Inc. related to contamination in the Estuary.

Under the terms of a consent decree lodged in the federal district court for the Western District of Louisiana together with a filed complaint, ConocoPhillips and Sasol North America will reimburse the EPA Superfund more than $4.5 million and will complete a removal action valued at about $10 million to clean up Bayou Verdine within the Calcasieu Estuary. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) is also a plaintiff in the case and party to the settlement.

“These settlements demonstrate the United States’ and Louisiana’s successful and continuing efforts to hold polluters accountable for contamination in the estuary,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, Department of Justice assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The responsible parties will fund the cleanup and restore the damaged estuary. This will provide substantial benefits to the health and environment of the citizens of Louisiana.”

Bayou Verdine is a waterway within the Calcasieu Estuary that flows into the Calcasieu River and is located southwest of Westlake and south of Mossville, in Calcasieu Parish, La. Heavy industry dominates the southern reaches of Bayou Verdine, which is the recipient of industrial discharges.

ConocoPhillips and Sasol North America previously entered into an agreement with EPA to perform an Engineering Evaluation and Cost Analysis of Bayou Verdine. The project documented the presence of hazardous substances in the sediments and water of Bayou Verdine and nearby Coon Island Loop. ConocoPhillips and Sasol North America also performed a cleanup in the West Ditch area of Bayou Verdine to address high concentrations of contaminants. The parties entered into negotiations with DOJ, EPA and LDEQ to perform a cleanup of Bayou Verdine and resolve their liability for past and future response costs for the entire Calcasieu Estuary.

As part of a comprehensive settlement, the Department of Justice also announced the lodging of a second consent decree to resolve the liability of ConocoPhillips and Sasol North America for natural resource damages in the estuary resulting from discharges of hazardous substances. Over the past several years, federal and state trustees worked cooperatively with ConocoPhillips and Sasol North America to assess injuries and to develop a restoration plan.

Under the terms of settlement, with state and federal natural resource trustees (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of the Interior, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries), ConocoPhillips and Sasol North America will reimburse the federal and state trustees a total of nearly $1.2 million for a share of past natural resource damages assessment costs, perform construction of a restoration project selected by the trustees in the Sabine Wildlife Refuge in accordance with the Final Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment for the Bayou Verdine Site, and pay an additional $750,000 for future monitoring of the restoration project.

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