Pacific Pipelines to pay penalty for oil spill

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 25 -- The US Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency said Pacific Pipeline Systems LLP, a Long Beach, Calif.-based oil transportation 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.

"The United States brought this case to protect an important body of water, Pyramid Lake," said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

The agreement resolves a complaint filed in federal court in Los Angeles for the discharge of crude oil into Pyramid Lake, which is located 60 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

In March 2005, a landslide caused a failure in a portion of Pacific Pipeline Systems’ Line 63, an underground pipeline that runs from Bakersfield, Calif., to Los Angeles.

The resulting pipeline break discharged approximately 3,393 bbl 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 Systems will discontinue use of 70 miles of the Line 63 pipeline that travels through the Tehachapi Mountains, portions of which are geologically unstable.

The agreement allows for the reuse of the pipeline, but Pacific Pipeline must first perform specific actions to relocate the pipeline into more geologically stable areas or improve its resistance to earth movement.

The consent decree, lodged in the US District Court for the Central District of California, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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