DOJ sues ATP over alleged oil, chemical discharges into Gulf of Mexico

The US Department of Justice sued ATP Oil and Gas Corp. and ATP Infrastructure Partners LP for allegedly discharging crude oil and chemical dispersants into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Feb. 11 complaint, which DOJ filed in US District Court for Eastern Louisiana, said the companies violated provisions of the federal Clean Water Act and Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act by allowing the discharges from their ATP Innovator platform.

The vessel was operating on Mississippi Canyon Lease Block 71 about 45 nautical miles off southeastern Louisiana, DOJ said.

DOJ filed the civil action on behalf of the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which discovered violations during a March 2012 inspection.

The complaint said ATP failed to properly operate and maintain the ATP Innovator’s wastewater treatment system.  Excess oil was discharged into the ocean as a result, and an unauthorized chemical dispersant was added to the oily wastewater discharge to mask the presence of oil on the ocean’s surface, it indicated.

The dispersant was added to the outfall pipe by way of a concealed metal tube that connected a tank of dispersant to the outfall pipe, said the complaint.

The metal tubing was connected to the outfall pipe downstream of the sample collection point, making the addition of unauthorized dispersant undetectable in samples that ATP was required to collect to show compliance with its CWA discharge permit, DOJ said.

ATP used the dispersant from at least October 2010 to March 2012, DOJ said. It noted that the independent producer filed for bankruptcy in August 2012 in the Houston division of US Bankruptcy Court for Southern Texas, which was provided notice of the civil action’s filing.

The DOJ’s action against ATP is exempt from the federal bankruptcy code’s automatic stay based on the police and regulatory exception.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

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