A Louisiana oil company agreed Friday to pay $715,000 in fines and expenses for spilling crude oil three times in the Atchafalaya River basin in Louisiana.
The agreement settles violations of federal Clean Water Act and oil spill prevention rules, and of Louisiana pollution laws, by ORB Exploration LLC of Lafayette.
The spills happened in 2013 and 2015 at company sites at Frog Lake and Crocodile Bayou, both in the river basin.
Orb will pay $615,000 to the U.S. Justice Department and $100,000 to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality in civil penalties and response costs.
The company had earlier paid more than $1.5 million in cleanup costs involving the January 2013 release of oil from an underwater pipe connected to the Frog Lake platform and storage tanks. The Coast Guard’s federal oil spill fund reimbursed a cleanup company for another $227,224 in costs involved in that spill.
Friday’s consent agreement, filed in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge, said Orb ended up paying a smaller amount for the three incidents than it might have otherwise have been charged because of its financial troubles. The agreement also requires that ORB keep the Justice Department informed of any actions that might affect the future of the company over the next couple of months.
Orb entered into a similar consent agreement in 2013, about two months after the spill, for a violation of federal safety rules. It paid a $32,100 fine to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“This settlement holds ORB accountable for the harms to the environment caused by its oil spills into threatened, sensitive natural areas and requires the company to take important corrective measures including improving its environmental compliance and preventing future spills from its oil production facilities,” said Assistant Attorney General John Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
A federal complaint filed with the court also charged the company failed to comply with Coast Guard orders involving the cleanup. It outlined safety violations found during a 2015 EPA inspection of the company’s Frog Lake oil production barge. The Department of Environmental Quality charged the company with failing to report the January 2013 spill on a timely basis to the agency, including a violation of a requirement to notify the state’s emergency hotline.
ORB must establish a secondary level of containment at the Frog Lake facility as part of the settlement. Also, it must provide advance notice to the Coast Guard before future oil transfer operations take place.