U.S. Justice department sues ATP over Clean Water Act violations
BY ALISON SIDER
HOUSTON -- The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has brought a suit against ATP oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico, alleging the company illegally allowed discharges of oil and chemicals from a floating oil and gas production platform. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) discovered violations during an inspection of the ATP oil and gas platform, located in the Mississippi Canyon block of the Gulf, last March and referred the matter to the DOJ.
According to the DOJ’s complaint, filed in the District Court for Louisiana's eastern district, ATP discharged more oil than it was allowed to into the ocean, and masked this with a chemical "dispersant" added to the wastewater through a concealed metal tube. The dispersant acted to break apart oil molecules into smaller, dispersed droplets. On board the platform, it was referred to as the "soap" or the "sheen buster" according to the DOJ's complaint. Though the complaint states that the dispersant had been used from at least October 2010 to March 2012, the tube was connected in such a way that the additional chemical was added after the point where compliance testing samples were taken, so the additive wasn't detected.
The government is seeking civil penalties under the Clean Water Act and injunctive relief for violations of the Clean Water Act and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. The DOJ is asking ATP oil and gas to pay up to $32,500 per day for each violation through January 12, 2009, and up to $37,500 per day for each violation after that date. The department also is seeking to assess penalties of up to $37,500 per day against ATP Infrastructure Partners for each violation on and after March 6, 2009.
ATP filed a petition for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code in August, according to the company website.
Dow Jones Newswires