An oil spill that happened in 2016 while operations to restore a barrier island in Louisiana was the cause of a $1 million judgment levied against a Houston dredging business.
(AP) NEW ORLEANS — An oil spill that happened in 2016 off the coast of Louisiana when a subcontractor cut through an oil pipeline while working on restoring barrier islands resulted in a $1 million fine for a Houston dredging business.
According to a press statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Orleans, Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company, which bills itself as the largest dredging firm in the country, received a sentence last Thursday for breaking the Clean Water Act.
In that news release from Friday, Kimberly Bahney, special agent in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency's criminal enforcement unit in Louisiana, stated that Great Lakes "recklessly disregarded standards designed to safeguard the environment and then tried to cover their activities."
A marsh buggy that was moving sediment and digging to form a portion of the island's new shape hit a pipeline, causing an estimated 5,300 gallons (20,000 liters) of crude oil to spill and oil about 200 birds.
Chenier Ronquillo is a barrier island east of Grand Isle that underwent restoration thanks to funds recovered from the 2010 BP oil spill.
In June 2021, Great Lakes, whose headquarters were formerly in Oak Brook, Illinois, but are now in Houston, entered a guilty plea. It claimed in the plea that by failing to notify companies about ongoing construction near their pipes, it had broken both state and federal regulations. James Tassin's marsh buggy punctured the pipeline on September 5, 2016, according to a statement included with the guilty plea. James Tassin was improperly supervised by Great Lakes, which contributed to the disaster.
In March 2021, Tassin, a worker for Shallow Water Equipment LLC, admitted to breaking the Clean Water Act. According to court documents available online, his sentencing is slated for August 16.
According to the news release, a Great Lakes employee instructed him to dig close to pipelines even though that location wasn't in the plan that had been approved by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Tassin claimed a Great Lakes employee warned him "not to notify anyone that Tassin had been excavating near the location of the spill" and that Great Lakes had not received clearance from pipeline companies that it was safe to dig.
Harvest Pipeline Company and Arrowhead Gulf Coast Pipeline, LLC, two Houston-based businesses that owned the pipeline, sued for damages, including clean-up expenses. According to the prosecution, Tassin's employer and Great Lakes agreed to pay a combined total of roughly $3.2 million.
According to The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate, U.S. District Judge Greg Guidry last week denied the prosecution's demand that Great Lakes make a total of at least $6 million in compensation for the spill.
He argued that the probe would be too cumbersome and "unnecessarily delay resolution of the Chenier Ronquille affair." Furthermore, he added, the amount probably wouldn't differ significantly from the sum chosen for the damage suit.
A court account already has the necessary funds to pay the fine. When it entered a guilty plea, Great Lakes put down $2 million for potential reparations; it will get the rest back, according to court records.
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