Pipeline Company to Pay $35 Million in Fines & Penalties for Inland Spill from Oil Drilling

Aug. 24, 2021

The pipeline rupture caused 29 million gallon spill over 143 days before discovery

The Department of Justice filed criminal charges under the Clean Water Act (CWA) against Summit Midstream Partners LLC, a North Dakota pipeline company. 

The company discharged 29 million gallons of produced water from its pipeline near Williston, North Dakota, over the course of nearly five months in 2014 to 2015.

According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the discharge of more than 700,000 barrels of produced water contaminated land, groundwater, and over 30 miles of tributaries of the Missouri River. The spill is believed to be the largest inland spill in history.

In addition to criminal charges, the U.S. and the state of North Dakota filed a civil complaint against Summit and a related company, Meadowlark Midstream Company LLC, alleging violations of the CWA and North Dakota water pollution control laws.  Summit Midstream Partners LLC has agreed to pay $35 million in criminal fines and civil penalties, according to the DOJ.

“Summit prioritized profits over the environment. The company’s disregard for pipeline safety resulted in pollution of the environment on a massive scale over 143 days,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division in the DOJ news release. “Summit’s conduct was criminal and its failure to immediately report the discharge a felony. This resolution holds the company financially accountable, requires enhanced compliance measures to prevent future spills, and provides compensation for North Dakota’s damaged natural resources.”    

If the court accepts the plea agreement, Summit will pay $15 million in federal criminal fines for causing the continuous spill, failing to stop it and deliberately failing to make an immediate report, added the DOJ.

The 700,000-barrel discharge of produced water contained crude oil, chloride, sodium, ammonia, aluminum, arsenic, boron, copper, nickel, selenium, zinc, barium, benzene and thallium, and more contaminants.

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Cristina Tuser