For Immediate Release
Contact: Carl Weimer (360) 543-5686
The Federal Office of Pipeline Safety lets Olympic Pipe Line Company off with a slap
On February 10, 2005 the federal Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) and Olympic Pipe Line Company settled proposed civil penalties for violations of pipeline safety laws that contributed to the Olympic Pipeline tragedy on June 10, 1999. The settlement let Olympic Pipe Line Company off the hook for one of the worst pipeline accidents in U.S. history for a mere $250,000, less than one twelfth of the proposed fine. In announcing, with much fanfare, the proposed record $3.05 million penalty in June of 2000 the administrator of OPS stated “In cases like this, where a pipeline operator fails to take appropriate actions to ensure safety, we will penalize the company to the fullest extent possible to ensure full compliance with federal safety rules.”
The settlement, nearly identical to a similar settlement with Shell a year earlier, allows both companies to avoid admission of any wrongdoing, and also leaves in question who, if anyone, was the legal operator of the pipeline.
“This pathetic settlement brings into question whether the federal Office of Pipeline Safety has really progressed much since 1999. How can the federal enforcement agency allow one of the worst examples of pipeline mismanagement in this country’s history be settled without any admission of guilt, or even clarifying who the operator was? How can a regulatory agency not know who is operating a hazardous liquid pipeline under their authority, and even worse how can they not care?” said Carl Weimer executive director of the Pipeline Safety Trust.
Weimer went on to say “British Petroleum, the majority owner and operator of Olympic Pipe Line, should be embarrassed to use loopholes in corporate ownership laws to avoid paying the full fine, especially when just last week they announced profits of $15.73 billion for 2004.”
Weimer also pointed out that “recently the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, which has enforcement authority on pipelines that do not cross state lines, fined a local gas distribution company $500,000 for safety violations that did not lead to any deaths or property damage, so in comparison this fine of Olympic is a sad joke. OPS has sent another loud message to the industry, that breaking the law is cheaper than making sure your pipelines are safe.”
The Pipeline Safety Trust promotes fuel transportation safety through education and advocacy, by increasing access to information, and by building partnerships with residents, safety advocates, government, and industry, that result in safer communities and a healthier environment. The Pipeline Safety Trust came into being based on the efforts and recommendations of Bellingham citizens and the families of Liam Wood and Stephen Tsiorvas who were killed in the 1999 Olympic Pipeline explosion.