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EPA, Justice Department Negotiate Pipeline Safety Settlement

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department today announced that it had negotiated a settlement with a major pipeline company to pay $41 million to upgrade more than 10,000 miles of oil pipeline. The settlement, Obama administration officials say, will result in better pipeline safety on the company’s pipelines.

The settlement comes just weeks after a massive pipeline break in Michigan dumped about 1 million gallons of oil into a tributary of the Kalamazoo River. In light of this oil spill, I’ve been looking into the agency that is responsible for pipeline safety. I’ve found that the agency lacks an adequate mandate and the staff to require comprehensive inspections of the country’s massive pipeline system. Read my first story on the issue here and the second, which ran today, here.

Plains All American Pipeline and its subsidies violated the Clean Water Act in ten oil pipeline spills from 2004-2007. In addition to the $41 million the company agreed to pay to upgrade their pipelines, the company is also required to pay $3.25 million in civil penalties under the act.

“These spills – and the recent pipeline spill in the Kalamazoo River – remind us that we must be diligent in our enforcement efforts and work to ensure that companies are meeting their environmental obligations,” Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in a statement today.

Under the agreement Plains All American Pipeline agreed to “take steps to replace or install corrosion control equipment, perform pipeline inspections, assess the integrity of newly acquired pipelines, improve leak detection practices and capabilities, and provide proper training for personnel,” according to the statement.

EPA has more information on the settlement on its web site.

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