Fuel spills net $5.3 million penalty
A large fuel pipeline operator has agreed to pay a $5.3 million penalty in a settlement over spills, including a gas and diesel leak above Donner Lake in April 2005.
The agreement, which still must be signed by a judge, also ensures better maintenance of Kinder Morgan’s labyrinth of pipelines stretching over 3,000 miles across the Pacific West.
“Our team got what we asked for,” said William Rukeyser, a public affairs officer with the California Water Resources Control Board.
The spill in Summit Creek above Donner Lake was initially estimated at 1,700 gallons, but the settlement estimates the leak at only 300 gallons. The other two fuel spills that spurred the settlement, Suisun Marsh and Oakland Harbor, were far larger ” totaling more than 200,000 gallons.
The state water board will receive over $1.3 million from the settlement, $34,000 of that being a penalty directly tied to the Donner Lake leak. Kinder Morgan also agrees to an aggressive maintenance schedule.
“I am particularly reassured that the company will not only pay for damage, but will commit, in a manner that is enforceable, to put more resources into making sure these spills are not repeated,” said Executive Director Harold Singer of the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, which oversees the Truckee and Tahoe region, in a written statement.
The company agreed to hire 10 additional “line-riders,” who serve as the company’s pipeline inspectors.
“We have changed the reality so there are more human eyes and technical eyes on the pipeline at all times,” said Rukeyser.
Kinder Morgan is also responsible for reimbursing all agencies for money spent on the restoration and cleanup of the fuel spills.
The pipeline company said they have changed their procedures to keep future leaks from happening and are currently outperforming industry standards.
However, a company spokesman said they have no plans to replace the aging fuel line over Donner Summit that has leaked three times over the last decade.
“There is no real life expectancy,” said spokesman Larry Pierce of the 40-year-old fuel line. “It’s really how you take care of them.”
The Summit Creek spill mainly damaged micro-organisms and bugs, said Dana Michaels, a spokeswoman for the Department of Fish and Game office of spill prevention and response.
“If the food web is affected by a spill or other things, it affects the larger animals as a ripple effect,” said Michaels.
Kinder Morgan will complete restoration work at the creek by fall and will monitor the creek for the next two to five years, according to Pierce.
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