The owner and operator of a pipeline have agreed to pay a $1.5 million civil penalty under the Clean Water Act and $7.2 million in damages and mitigation to resolve federal and state Oil Pollution Act and Clean Water Act claims arising from a 2010 spill of over 1,800 barrels of oil into a globally rare dolomite wetland from a pipeline near Lockport, Illinois. The complaint, filed along with the settlement, alleges that the crude oil spill injured a critical habitat for the federally-endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly.
“Pipeline companies have a responsibility to protect our waters, people, wildlife and diverse habitats from oil spills, and will be held accountable for the harms they cause,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This major settlement will not only deter future oil spills, but also help restore and enhance the diminishing habitat of an endangered species.”
“The settlement funds will help us improve the remaining habitat for the dragonfly and increase their population, as well as provide benefits for other wildlife injured by the spill,” said Regional Director Charlie Wooley for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Great Lakes Region.
“EPA and our partners have worked extensively to clean up and mitigate damage from this pipeline breach that released more than 1,800 barrels of crude oil into wetlands,” said Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today’s settlement marks the culmination of a 10-year project to clean up the spill and prepare the site for restoration activities.”
“Illinois wetlands are some of our most valuable natural resources that provide residents and visitors with opportunities for recreation and study, as well as providing scarce habitat for some of Illinois’ endangered species,” said Attorney General Kwame Raoul for Illinois. “I am pleased that this settlement will mitigate contamination from the oil spill and support the restoration of wetlands near Lockport for future generations.”
“In partnership with federal and state trustees, the Corps reviewed the extent of the unauthorized fill material in the Hine’s emerald dragonfly wetlands and approved a comprehensive mitigation proposal to offset the impacts,” said Chief Kathleen Chernich of the East Section Regulatory Branch for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Chicago District. “We were proud to partner with the federal and state trustees to craft a solution that is designed to mitigate more than 100 acres of wetland losses caused by the spill.”
The December 2010 spill resulted from a breach in a 12-inch buried pipeline that discharged crude oil into a wetland adjacent to the Illinois-Michigan Canal near Lockport, Illinois. West Shore Pipe Line Co. of Lemont, Illinois, the owner of the crude oil pipeline, and Houston-based Buckeye Pipe Line Co., the operator, previously undertook responsibility for the cleanup of the spill site overseen by the EPA.
In the settlement filed today, Buckeye and West Shore have also agreed to pay $7.2 million for injury to the Hine’s emerald dragonfly and other natural resources in the wetland which the federal and state trustees, and the U.S. Army Corps of Trustees (Corps), will jointly use to plan, design and perform restoration projects to compensate for the harms caused by the oil spill, as well as mitigation for impacts to wetlands.
Today’s action was filed by the Department of Justice and the State on behalf of the federal and state trustees for natural resources. The designated federal trustees for the natural resources impacted by Buckeye’s oil spill are the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service. The designated state trustees are the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. The federal and state trustees have worked together to perform substantial injury assessment work and are engaged in joint restoration planning efforts. The complaint was also filed on behalf of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to address violations of a Clean Water Act Section 404 permit in connection with the cleanup of the oil spill in waters of the United States.
The consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. The consent decree will be available for viewing here.