ConocoPhillips to Pay Fine for 2004 Spill

Monday, October 16, 2006
The owner of the Polar Texas - the oil tanker that spilled more than 1,000 gallons of crude oil into Puget Sound's Dalco Passage on Oct. 13, 2004 - will pay in full a $540,000 fine levied by the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology). The ship - which has since been decommissioned - belonged to Polar Tankers, Inc., a subsidiary of ConocoPhillips Co.

The $540,000 fine is the largest fine Ecology has ever issued for a spill in marine waters, and is the maximum possible penalty under state law. Negotiations continue, meanwhile, on a state-federal-tribal damage assessment that is separate from the penalty. Funds from this assessment would be placed in a fund that supports restoration projects that compensate Washington citizens for damage to the public's environmental resources. "We fully expect the companies to compensate the citizens of Washington for the damages that this spill caused to our state's natural resources," Zehm said. "ConocoPhillips and Polar Tankers have taken full responsibility for the penalty, so we see no reason to delay the rest of this package." Ecology and the U.S. Coast Guard have determined that the oil came from the Polar Texas because oil on the water - Alaska North Slope crude oil - matched oil aboard the vessel. The Polar Texas had just delivered the same kind of oil to a Tacoma refinery. There were no other ships in the vicinity carrying crude oil at the time of the spill. Ecology's civil penalty cites the companies the maximum amount for five violations: • Negligence in illegally spilling oil to state waters ($260,000). • Failing to clean up the spill ($130,000). • Failing to follow ConocoPhillips' state-approved oil spill contingency plan ($130,000). • Failing to notify state and federal response agencies about the spill ($10,000). • Strict liability for discharging oil to state waters ($10,000). The lack of response made it necessary for Ecology and the Coast Guard to conduct an exhaustive investigation to identify the source. Investigators tracked and sampled all shipping in and out of the area in the days prior to the spill, including vessels that had departed for ports overseas.

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