The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on behalf of EPA filed suit Tuesday against Colonial Pipeline Co. for allegedly spilling 3 million gallons (71,500 barrels) of petroleum over nine states since 1980.
Pipeline corrosion, mechanical damage and operator error have resulted in numerous spills over the past 20 years in Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey.
The suit seeks civil penalties that could amount anywhere from $71.4 million to $214.3 million if the company is penalized on a per-barrel basis and depending on whether gross negligence is determined, said DOJ.
Colonial Pipeline, the nation''s largest refined oil products pipeline, said that it had already paid $13.5 million to state governments in environmental fines, and that its safety record had improved sharply in the last five years.
The pipeline crosses numerous rivers, streams and wetlands, and oils spills from the pipeline have put a variety of aquatic systems at risk.
The suit alleges that in one case, more than 950,000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled into the Reedy River in South Carolina, killing 35,000 fish and dispersing oil 34 miles downstream.
Colonial Pipeline is owned by BP, Citgo Petroleum Co., Phillips Petroleum Co., Conoco Inc., Texaco Inc., Unocal Corp. and Marathon Ashland Petroleum Co.
by Virginia Sutcliffe