U.S., Maryland, Reach $3 Million Settlement with Power Company

The United States and the state of Maryland have reached a $3 million settlement with Potomac Electric Power Co. (PEPCO) and its pipeline operator, ST Services, for fines and cleanup costs related to an oil spill.

The oil spill, caused by a ruptured pipeline near PEPCO's Chalk Point Generating Station near Aquasco, Md., occurred on April 7, 2000 and released 140,000 gallons of oil into Swanson Creek, a tributary of the Patuxent River, causing major injuries to wetlands, beaches, waterfowl, terrapins and other natural resources.

The Justice Department, on behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Maryland Department of the Environment and Natural Resources lodged a Consent Decree settling natural resource damage and cost recovery claims under which PEPCO and ST Services have agreed to pay $2,710,498 for projects identified in a joint federal-state "Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment" and to reimburse $318,000 in remaining unpaid costs incurred in assessing the injuries caused by the spill.

The restoration projects include the creation of new wetlands and oyster reef sanctuary, enhancement of shoreline habitat for diamond-backed terrapins, protection of ruddy duck nesting habitat, creation of canoe/kayak campsites, including a disabled-accessible canoe launch site, construction of a fishing pier, as well as other recreational improvements in the area.

"This important settlement recovers virtually 100 percent of the damages to natural resources caused by this tragic event," said Thomas L. Sansonetti, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Environment and Natural Resources Division. "We are pleased to have worked productively with both federal and state natural resource trustees to achieve this result, and we also want to acknowledge PEPCO's cooperative approach to the resolution of this matter."

The spill prompted emergency response from the U.S. Environment Protection Agency, the Coast Guard, Maryland Department of Environment and PEPCO, and was followed by an EPA emergency order requiring PEPCO to conduct oil recovery operations.

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