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Houston firm to pay $9.5M in penalties for safety violations, oil spill in Gulf

February 27, 2017

An oil industry services firm will pay $9.5 million in penalties for Gulf of Mexico safety violations and pollution from a 2012 offshore platform fire that killed three workers.

As The Associated Press reports, the penalties against Houston-based Wood Group PSN were announced Thursday by the U.S. Justice Department in Washington and U.S. attorneys in New Orleans and Lafayette, where civil and criminal cases have been playing out. The penalties followed plea agreements.

Wood Group will pay $7 million for falsely reporting that safety inspections were performed on Gulf of Mexico facilities over several years. Another $1.8 million in penalties are for discharging oil into the Gulf in the November 2012 explosion that killed three workers on a platform owned by Texas-based Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations. Wood Group also will pay $700,000 for community service projects.

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Responsible Party’s Efforts To Avoid Payment Of Clean Up Costs Denied


In U.S. v. American Commercial Lines,  the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana considered a 2008 oil spill in the Mississippi River resulting from a collision between the tanker M/T TINTOMARA and the tank barge DM 932, owned by American Commercial Lines (“ACL”).  The US Coast Guard designated ACL as the Responsible Party (“RP”) under the U.S. Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (“OPA”) because the oil spill came from its barge.  ACL hired a number of oil spill responders to clean up the spill.  At the conclusion of the clean up these responders invoiced ACL’s designated agent but ACL disputed some of the claims and did not pay or settle them within the 90 daytime period prescribed by OPA.  These responders then submitted claims for their uncompensated removal costs to the National Pollution Funds Center (“the Fund”), who paid them.

The US commenced this lawsuit against ACL to recover the Fund’s payments to these responders. In deciding a prior motion, the district court confirmed that ACL was a responsible party and held that it was not entitled to invoke either OPA’s complete sole third party fault or limitation of liability defenses to the government’s claim.

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Enbridge to invest $1.7 billion in wind farm as pipeline business gathers steam


Energy giant Enbridge Inc. is making big inroads into renewables even as changes in government policies are paving the way for the rapid expansion of its traditional oil and gas pipeline business.

The company said Friday it was investing $1.7 billion for 50 per cent of the Hohe See wind energy project off the coast of Germany, which follows last year's $282-million buy of a 50 per cent stake in a group of French offshore wind projects.

"It's clear that we're going to need all sources of supply to meet growing global energy demand, and that includes renewable supplies," said Enbridge CEO Al Monaco in an earnings conference call.

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Spills From Fracking Are Worse Than We Imagined

February 21, 2017

An alarming new study has identified 6,600 chemical spills related to hydraulic fracturing in just four US states over a ten year period. The finding shows that fracking is far messier than previously assumed, and that stricter safety measures need to be established and enforced.

New research published in Environmental Science & Technology shows that upwards of 16 percent of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” wells in Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania report a spill each year. These sites—whether it be due to human error, shoddy equipment, or environmental factors—dump chemical-laden water, hydraulic fracturing fluids, and other nasty substances onto the ground, where it can trickle into sensitive water sources. The new research, in addition to offering important insights into the frequency, volume, and cause of spills, points to the need for standardizing how spills are reported.

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Three Ways New EPA Head Scott Pruitt Will Dismantle Environmental Protection


Despite extraordinary backlash, former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has just been named to head the Environmental Protection Agency for the Trump administration. The vote came one day after a judge ruled Pruitt has until Tuesday to release 3,000 emails between himself and executive members of the fossil fuel industry. It’s a highly controversial appointment celebrated by many in the fossil fuel industry, and dreaded by a number of environmental scientists, some of whom now work for him.

To recap: Pruitt, who has sued the EPA 14 times as Oklahoma Attorney General, and wouldn’t promise to recuse himself from ongoing suits once he was confirmed, once described himself as the “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” He is on the record saying that the “[climate change] debate is far from settled.” He even told a flabbergasted Bernie Sanders that his personal opinion of climate change is “immaterial” to his role as head of the EPA.

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