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Justice Department announces $7.4 million settlement for massive oil spill: 'Those who violate this duty will be held accountable'

It's a high price to pay for a preventable disaster.

It's a high price to pay for a preventable disaster.

Photo Credit: iStock

Two oil pipeline companies have agreed to pay $7.4 million in fines and cleanup costs after a pipeline ruptured, spilling nearly 300,000 gallons of crude oil onto land owned by the Sac and Fox Nation in Oklahoma.

The spill occurred on July 8, 2022, when a segment of the 135-mile Osage pipeline burst about five miles north of Cushing, Oklahoma, according to Tulsa World. The pipeline, owned by Osage Pipe Line Co. and operated by Holly Energy Partners-Operating, normally transports crude oil from Cushing to a refinery in Kansas.

From the rupture point, the spilled oil flowed into Skull Creek and contaminated the surrounding area before the creek joins the Cimarron River about three miles downstream. Members of the Sac and Fox Nation own the affected land.

The heavy crude oil severely degraded water quality and damaged the ecosystem in and around the creek. Imagine 300,000 gallons — that's enough oil to fill nearly 18 residential swimming pools.

Under the settlement announced by the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice, the companies must finish cleaning up the spill, take steps to prevent future spills, and pay the hefty $7.4 million penalty. Those measures include improving their pipeline management, providing more training for control room staff, and expanding spill notification to tribal governments.

"Oil companies have a responsibility to prevent harmful oil spills, and today's settlement demonstrates that those who violate this duty will be held accountable under the law," Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim told the U.S. Department of Justice.

Talk about a high price to pay for a preventable disaster. But when companies neglect critical safety measures, it sadly often takes massive fines to spur them to change.

"The Sac and Fox Nation is a strong partner in conserving and protecting the environment and natural resources," EPA official Earthea Nance told the Environmental Protection Agency. "Today's settlement is an important step in holding the company accountable."

While the $7.4 million penalty won't undo the damage already done, it sends a message that careless oil spills come with major consequences.

With continued vigilance, we can work together to prevent spills and protect precious water resources while holding polluting companies accountable.

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