Alaska BP Unit Sued By U.S. Government Over 2006 Spill

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Alaska BP Unit Sued By U.S. Government Over 2006 Spill

HOUSTON -- The U.S. government filed a civil lawsuit seeking minimum penalties against an Alaskan BP plc unit, alleging the company broke federal laws during two 2006 oil spills in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Anchorage, Alaska, and said BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. discharged 200,000 gallons of oil during two separate oil spills, according to the report, which cited a statement released by the Justice Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The government also requested the court order BP to "take all appropriate action to prevent spills in the future," the statement said.

The suit also accuses BP of failing "to prepare and implement spill prevention" and take other measures mandated by the Clean Water Act. It alleges the company "improperly" removed asbestos-containing materials from its pipelines, violating the Clean Air Act, and didn't comply in a timely manner with federal orders requiring tests, inspection and repairs, the Journal reported.

In recent years the company worked to improve its reputation in the U.S. and relations with regulators, following the 2006 spills in Alaska and 2 005 fatal explosion at BP's Texas City refinery, the report stated.

Earlier this week, the state of Alaska also filed a civil lawsuit in the state Superior Court in Anchorage over lost revenues tied to the 2006 oil spills. In it, the state asks to collect penalty fees from BP for violating environmental laws, and to be compensated for lost state revenues tied to an estimated 35 million barrels of lost oil production, the newspaper reported.

BP spokesman Steve Rinehart told the Journal the company had "no comment on the legal issues."

"We have taken significant steps to ensure that our operations are safe and reliable, and protect the environment," Rinehart said in the report. "Those include building a new $500 million system of oil transit lines at Prudhoe Bay."

In November 2007, BP Alaska pleaded guilty to one count of criminal negligent discharge of oil in violation of the Clean Water Act, a misdemeanor that carried a $20 million payment, according to the report.

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