Rowan Companies Inc. will pay $9m in penalties and add a corporate environmental division under a plea agreement in which it admitted the routine discharge of pollutants and garbage into the Gulf of Mexico from
one of its drilling rigs, the Justice Department recently announced.
Rowan pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Beaumont, Texas, to three felonies in connection with the dumping of waste hydraulic oil mixed with water, used paint, paint cans, and other trash from Rig Midland from 2002 to 2004. Nine company managers that were on the rig during the dumping also plead guilty to environmental crimes.
According to the plea agreement, the dumping was related to the operation and cleaning of offshore drilling rigs, which requires the use of large amounts of fresh hydraulic oil, chemicals and paint, among other waste materials.
The company agreed to pay a $7m criminal fine, along with community service payments totaling $1m to five state environmental enforcement agencies.
It also will pay $1m to the National Marine Sanctuaries Foundation to be used for preservation and protection projects at the Flower Garden and Stetson Banks National Marine Sanctuary located in the Gulf of Mexico off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana.
In addition, Rowan will reorganize its corporate structure to add an environmental division and to implement a comprehensive environmental compliance plan under which the company will commit that all of its rigs operating in U.S. waters will comply with U.S. and international environmental laws.
Further, in cooperation with the EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard, Rowan will develop new sandblasting techniques and help establish new industry standards for the minimization and containment of sandblasting debris over water.
The requirement to develop new sandblasting methods stems from the company's 2004 guilty plea in federal court in Louisiana in 2004 to one felony count for discharging pollutants into the Sabine River as a result of sandblasting operations used to clean the rig in Port Fourchon in 2004.