Federal judge lifts BP Exploration probation

By OGJ editors

US District Judge Ralph Beistline lifted BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc.’s probation and dismissed federal prosecutors’ arguments that a 2009 oil spill by BP violated its probation following a conviction of negligent discharge of oil for a 200,000-gal spill on the Alaskan North Slope during 2006.

The US attorney’s office in Anchorage had requested that BP’s probation be revoked, which could have resulted in a longer probation or additional penalties. On Dec. 27, Beistline ruled the government failed to prove criminal negligence by BP.

During 2009, an estimated 13,500 gal of oil spilled from the 18-in L-3 pipeline, which links Lisburne field activities to the Lisburne Production Center. Lisburne field is part of Prudhoe Bay Unit.

Government attorneys argued BP failed to anticipate or properly respond to the 2009 spill, and they said that action violated probation terms stemming from the 2006 spill. The probation called for BP to avoid a federal, state, or local crime.

The 2006 leak involved the GC-21 line in the Western Operating Area of Prudhoe Bay oil field.

On Nov. 29, 2007, BP Exploration pleaded guilty to one count of criminal negligent discharge of oil into US waters in a misdemeanor violation of the Clean Water Act. That resulted in the 3-year probation and a $12 million fine (OGJ Online, Apr. 10, 2009).

Steve Rinehart, a spokesman for BP Alaska said the company was pleased with the court decision.

“We know that the privilege of working in Alaska comes with a responsibility to maintain high standards,” Rinehart said. “We will continue our commitment to running safe and compliant operations.”

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