OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - A Texas-based pipeline company has agreed to pay more than a $1 million fine for three spills in Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska, as well as invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in safety and equipment upgrades, federal officials announced Tuesday.
Enterprise Products and its Mid-America Pipeline Co. subsidiary agreed to the fine as part of a consent decree filed in U.S. District Court in Omaha, according to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Enterprise also agreed to spend at least $200,000 to reduce external threats to the underground pipeline, such as farmers digging in the area, and to improve its reporting of spills. The company will spend another $200,000 to help reduce the risk of future spills by lowering the pipe, adding new shut-off valves and building fences.
"The agreement will result in safer pipeline operations and that will be good for Nebraska's environment," said Deborah Gilg, the U.S. Attorney for Nebraska.
The spills - all of which affected waterways - happened along the West Red Pipeline, which carries gasoline products between Conway, Kan., and Pine Bend, Minn. Pipeline spills that enter a body of water tend to be more difficult to clean up because water can carry the spilled material farther if the petroleum products aren't quickly contained.
EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks said Tuesday's settlement requires Enterprise to conduct ground and air inspections of the pipeline on a regular basis. The company also promised to make sure local agencies and contractors were aware of the pipeline's location.
Enterprise Products spokesman Rick Rainey said all three spills covered by the settlement were caused by factors outside the company's control.
Rainey said a spill of about 71,000 gallons in Nebraska in 2007, and the 2010 Kansas spill of about 74,000 gallons, were caused by someone accidentally digging up the pipeline. Some of the Nebraska spill contaminated Otoe Creek, and the Kansas spill affected the Solomon River along with Cole and Buckeye creeks.
The Iowa spill of more than 34,000 gallons happened last year after flooding along the Missouri River washed away support for the pipeline, Rainey said. That incident sent oil directly into the Missouri River.
"Enterprise is pleased to resolve these outstanding issues which were the result of damage caused by third parties or weather-related events beyond the company's control," Rainey said.
The pipeline involved in the spills carries natural gasoline, which is different from natural gas and the gasoline used to power engines. It is an unrefined, clear liquid that gets blended with refined gasoline to help the final product meet octane and performance requirements. The product is heavier than air but floats on water.
Enterprise Products Operating LLC: www.enterpriseproducts.com
Environmental Protection Agency: www.epa.gov