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Pacific Pipeline Systems, LLC Clean Water Act Settlement

(WASHINGTON, DC - 01/20/10) Pacific Pipeline Systems LLP, a Long Beach, Calif.-based oil transport 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 Justice Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today.

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Overview and Location of Facilities

Pacific Energy Partners was sold to Plains All American Pipeline, LP (Plains) in 2006. Plains, based in Houston, is a publicly traded master limited partnership (MLP) engaged in the transportation, storage and marketing of crude oil, refined products and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). The Partnership is also engaged in the development and operation of natural gas storage facilities. Plains handles on average over 3 million barrels per day of crude oil, refined products and LPG.

The stretch of pipeline addressed in this settlement is in the Angeles and Los Padres National Forests between Bakersfield, Calif. and Los Angeles.

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On March 23, 2005, Pacific's pipeline ruptured and discharged 3,393 barrels (142,506 gallons) of light blend crude oil, much of which entered into Posey Creek and Pyramid Lake, via Posey Cove, in violation of Sections 311(b) and 301(a) of the Clean Water Act (CWA). Pyramid Lake is used as a drinking water reservoir, recreational waterway and electric power source.

The buried pipeline ruptured when a landslide fell on it during a rain storm, in an area known to be prone to landslides. This was the ninth in a series of landslides at that time, but the first to rupture the pipeline in the area.

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Injunctive Relief

In November 2009 Pacific shut down the portion of its pipeline that travels through Forest Service lands where landslides occur. As long as the pipeline remains closed, no further action is required.

If Pacific wants to reopen this portion of the pipeline, it must first complete the following tasks:

  • Develop a work plan to perform increased oversight to address risks, including increased aerial and ground inspections following rain events, and coordinated personnel efforts before and during significant storm events to determine whether to operate or shut down the facilities.
  • Hire an independent third party (ITP) to review work plans for work to be performed pursuant to the consent decree, and implement any EPA-approved recommendations or modifications from the ITP.
  • Relocate specified above-ground sections of the pipeline into permanent below-ground locations. These locations were temporarily installed after prior landslides.
  • Study and repair a segment of the Old Ridge Route road base that was affected by Pacific's operations and its facilities, including analysis regarding the efficacy of support piers and walls, and the feasibility of repairing the Old Ridge Route road surface with concrete paving.
  • Relocate and bury 250 feet of pipe. Lower or relocate 12 sections of exposed pipe. If necessary repair and cover 28 feet of exposed pipe in a creek bed. Lower 240 feet of exposed pipe, and relocate 700 feet of exposed pipe at the bottom of a steep ravine.
  • Identify a project manager to oversee injunctive relief requirements and act as point of contact with EPA.

If the pipeline is reopened, Pacific must also implement the work plans associated with this work for three years after initial re-opening of the pipeline, and submit annual reports to EPA. Pacific must also not make material changes to its Integrity Management Plan, or to any facilities, that, as may be determined by EPA, are less protective of waters or adjoining shorelines within the jurisdiction of 33 U.S.C. § 1321 without prior written approval from EPA.

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Pollutants Addressed

  • The oil spill addressed by this settlement is 3,393 barrels of oil (142,506 gallons)

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Environmental Effects

Oil spills are known to cause both immediate and long-term harm to human health and ecosystems. Oil prevents oxygen in water and can suffocate wildlife.

Oil emulsions may stick to the gills of fish or coat and destroy algae or other plankton. Floating oil may reduce water exposure to the circulation of oxygen and, in conjunction with emulsified oil, interfere with photosynthesis.

Oil slicks can kill birds, contaminate food sources, reduce animal and plant reproduction and contaminate nesting habitats. Oil spills can cause long-term effects years later even if the oil remains in the environment for a relatively short period of time.

Petroleum oils can also undergo oxidation and polymerization reactions and can form tars that persist in the environment for years. These harms will be prevented by EPA's Section 311 enforcement efforts and this settlement agreement. Please see EPA's Emergency Management pages for more information about the effects of chemicals, hazardous substances and oils on the environment.

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Civil Penalty

Pacific Pipeline Systems, LLC will pay a penalty of $1,300,000 to resolve its liability for CWA Section 311(b) and 301(a) violations related to the spill. The penalty will be paid to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

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Comment Period

The proposed settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. Information on submitting comment is available at the Department of Justice website.

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For additional information, contact:

Cheryl Rose
Senior Attorney
Water Enforcement Division
Office of Civil Enforcement - OECA
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2242A)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
(202) 564-4136

Andrew Helmlinger
Region 9
75 Hawthorne Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 972-3904