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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Feds sue Coffeyville refinery over river oil spill

BY ROXANA HEGEMAN
Associated Press

The Justice Department has sued the Coffeyville refinery for more than $4.18 million in civil penalties and clean-up costs stemming from a 2007 oil spill into floodwaters of the Verdigris River, plus additional, unspecified fines for other environmental violations.

A civil complaint filed last week in U.S. District Court also seeks a court order forcing Coffeyville Resources Refining & Marketing to comply with numerous environmental regulations designed to prevent additional spills or damage.

Company spokesman Steve Eames said Monday that the company is aware of the lawsuit but hasn't yet seen it.

"We are working diligently to clean up any remaining issues," Eames said, declining further comment.

About 2,145 barrels of oil leaked from the refinery into the river during flooding in July 2007, according to the complaint. The government is seeking up to $1,100 in civil penalties for each barrel spilled, a figure amounting to nearly $2.36 million.

Most of the spill involved crude oil that overflowed an above-ground storage tank. But some diesel oil leaked from another storage tank that was moved off its foundation by floodwaters. The refinery's sewer system also flooded, discharging some oily water, according to the complaint.

Along with the civil penalties for each barrel spilled, the government is seeking reimbursement for $1.82 million spent to clean up the spill.

The Environmental Protection Agency conducted flyovers of the flooded area to determine the extent of contamination, deployed containment booms and absorbent pads and sent in boats with portable skimmers and vacuum trucks, the lawsuit says. More than 100 EPA clean-up technicians were sent to the spill, and the agency hired others to monitor drinking water intakes along the river.

The Justice Department also claims Coffeyville Resources violated various sections of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act before and after the spill. Among other things, it says the company didn't have a so-called risk management program, didn't meet requirements for hazard assessments and violated prevention program requirements. It also says the company didn't have written procedures for an emergency shutdown or investigated incidents that could have resulted in catastrophic spills.

If the court agrees, it could impose fines ranging from $27,500 to $37,500 per violation. That would be on top of penalties, if any, assessed for the 2007 spill.

It isn't clear in the government's lawsuit which of the numerous environmental statutes cited in the complaint it believes the company is still violating.

The lawsuit simply asks the court to order the company to take appropriate measures to correct past violations, prevent future violations and mitigate the effects of its violations.

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