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Sunoco Pipeline, L.P. Clean Water Act Settlement

(July 11, 2016)  EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Sunoco Pipeline, L.P. (Sunoco) has agreed to pay a civil penalty and implement corrective measures for alleged violation of the Clean Water Act stemming from a 2009 crude oil spill from Sunoco’s Barbers Hill, Texas facility and a 2011 crude oil spill from Sunoco’s Cromwell, Oklahoma facility.

Company Overview

Sunoco Pipeline L.P. was founded in 2002 and operates as a subsidiary of Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P., to transport crude oil, natural gas liquids and refined products business through more than 8000 miles of liquid pipelines. Sunoco Logistics’ crude oil business unit provides transportation, terminalling, and storage of crude oil throughout the Southwest and Midwest through approximately 5,900 miles of crude oil trunk and gathering pipelines and equity ownership interests in three crude oil pipelines.  The company also conducts crude oil acquisition and marketing activities, primarily in the mid-continent United States.

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Sunoco discharged approximately 1,900 barrels of crude oil from the Barbers Hill Station near Mont Belvieu, Texas, in August 2009 and 1742 barrels of crude oil from the Cromwell Tank Farm near Cromwell, Oklahoma in February 2011, in violation of Section 311(b) of the Clean Water Act (CWA).

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Injunctive Relief

The injunctive relief in this case focuses on three areas: corrosion assessment, dead-leg piping, and control room procedures. Sunoco will perform non-destructive examinations on all in-station piping located at the covered facilities in Texas and Oklahoma to determine the amount of corrosion in the lines and then develop a written post-assessment action plan which sets forth how they will address any identified internal corrosion risks in the piping. In response to the Cromwell spill, Sunoco developed a dead leg removal and line flushing program in 2011 to document, track, and manage dead leg piping in their facilities and to identify and reduce any risks presented when crude oil in Sunoco’s pipelines remain in a stagnant state with little or no flow. Sunoco will continue to complete this program at covered facilities under the Decree. Sunoco has also made changes at its Sugar Land Control room to improve operator procedures and better identify potential discharges.

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Pollutant Impacts

Due to the nature of the violations involved in this case we have not estimated a specific total pollutant reduction.

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Health and Environmental Effects

The injunctive relief required by the settlement to improve the safety of Sunoco’s practices and to enhance its oil spill preparedness and response are designed both to prevent the likelihood of a future oil spill, and to minimize the adverse effects of a spill if it should happen. Oil spills are known to cause both immediate and long-term harm to human health and ecosystems. Oil limits 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.

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Civil Penalty

Sunoco will pay a $850,000 federal civil penalty which will be paid to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

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Comment Period

The proposed settlement, lodged in the Southern District of Texas 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 more information, contact:

Kelly Brantner
Water Enforcement Division
U. S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave, NW (MC 2243A)
Washington, DC 20460 
(202) 564-9933

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