State AG will take Summit pipeline case | SierraSun.com

State AG will take Summit pipeline case

David Bunker
Sierra Sun

The California attorney general will handle penalties concerning a pipeline leak on Donner Summit that drained more than 1,700 gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel into the snow last April.

The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board voted unanimously to hand the case over to the state’s highest justice officer at its Wednesday meeting in Truckee.

The attorney general, who is already in negotiations with pipeline operator Kinder Morgan over other leaks or spills in the state, can impose penalties that are twice the amount the regional water board could levy.

The negotiations have already neared a settlement, said Chuck Curtis, the water board’s supervising engineer.

“We’ve heard that settlement negotiations will result in the maximum amount of fine being levied,” Curtis said.

The maximum fine is $20 per gallon of fuel spilled, which equals approximately $35,000 in penalties.

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The leak occurred on the trans-Sierra Nevada pipeline that links Rocklin with Sparks, Nev. A fuel smell was first reported by a skier at Donner Ski Ranch on April 1, 2005. The gas and diesel, which spilled into Summit Creek, was contained with oil-absorbent booms, and removed by dipping it out of the water.

Fuel affected about a half acre of wetlands and 3,015 linear feet of creek, according to the water board.

Kinder Morgan conducted the cleanup at the site, but state and federal agencies may still seek to recover expenses for aiding the cleanup effort and studying the effects of the spill.