Massachusetts oil companies to pay $312,500 over spill

By Nick Rees | Oct 22, 2008

Martha Coakley (D)

BOSTON (Legal Newsline) -- Three Massachusetts companies responsible for spilling roughly 18,000 gallons of fuel oil into the Chelsea River and Mill Creek in Revere have reached an agreement with the state attorney general's office.

Irving Oil Corporation, Irving Oil Terminals Inc. and Global Petroleum Corp. will pay a combined total of $312,500 to the Natural Resource Damages Trust under terms of the settlement. The trust was created by the Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs to repair natural resource sites that have been damaged.

On March 8, 2006, contractors for Irving Oil Corporation and Irving Oil Terminals allegedly removed at least one check-valve from an oil tank farm pipeline jointly owned by the Irving companies and Global. This created a one- to two-foot gap in the pipeline. Global then attempted to transfer fuel oil through the pipeline, releasing 20,000 gallons of oil, 18,000 of which went into the Chelsea River and upstream into Mill Creek.

"This harmful spill could have been avoided had the companies simply communicated with each other ahead of the repair work and closed a few valves," Attorney General Martha Coakley said. "We hope this settlement will prompt all companies to implement better preventative measures so our valuable resources can be protected."

A complaint filed in Suffolk Superior Court states that Irving and Global failed to act to prevent the oil spill by failing to shut off valves restricting the flow of oil through the pipeline.

The complaint also alleges that Irving and Global failed to take required Massachusetts Oil and Hazardous Material Release Prevention and Response Act steps required to assess further remediation of damages. Irving then filed an unsupported, misleading report stating that no further action was needed according to the complaint. Global ratified and adopted the report.

The companies have agreed to pay a $50,000 civil penalty for that violation, part of their total fine, and are now required to go through the regulatory assessment process as deeply as possible to make up for the passage of time since the release.

"The sensitive natural resources along the Chelsea River and Mill Creek have taken the brunt of past oil spills, so it is incumbent upon Irving and Global to do the right thing and operate their businesses in a way that does no further harm," Commissioner Laurie Burt of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection said. "It is far better to prevent spills upfront by carefully checking daily operations than it is to spend thousands to cleanup a spill after the fact."

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