The Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Tuesday that Holly Energy Partners-Operating L.P. and Osage Pipe Line Company LLC have agreed to pay $7.4 million in civil penalties to settle claims from a pipeline spill on tribal lands in Oklahoma.

The Osage pipeline ruptured and spilled crude oil onto land owned by members of the Sac and Fox Nation in Oklahoma.

The settlement also requires the two companies complete the cleanup and remediation of the impacted area.

“The pipeline ruptured in July 2022. A 5-foot-long breach in the pipe gushed enough oil to halfway fill an Olympic swimming pool into Skull Creek, just north of Cushing,” KOSU reports.

“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,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

“We appreciate the Sac and Fox Nation’s steady involvement in monitoring the cleanup efforts for environmental, natural resource, and cultural resource impacts and respect the Nation’s efforts to be caring stewards of lands owned by its members,” he added.

From the U.S. Attorney’s Office Western District of Oklahoma:

“The Sac and Fox Nation is a strong partner in conserving and protecting the environment and natural resources. EPA worked closely with the Nation to keep its environmental staff and leadership updated during the response and cleanup of the Osage Pipeline spill,” said EPA Region 6 Administrator Dr. Earthea Nance. “Today’s settlement is an important step in holding the company accountable for the impacts to Skull Creek and other potential effects.”

The United States filed its Complaint today in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma along with the notice of lodging of a proposed Consent Decree to resolve the case. In the Complaint, the United States alleges that the two related Dallas-based companies are liable under the Clean Water Act for the crude oil spill that occurred on July 8, 2022. Osage Pipe Line Company owns the 135-mile-long, 20-inch-diameter pipeline that transports crude oil from a tank farm in Cushing, Oklahoma, to the HollyFrontier refinery in El Dorado, Kansas. Holly Energy Partners-Operating is the operator of the pipeline.

The Complaint alleges the spill occurred when a segment of the pipeline ruptured adjacent to Skull Creek about five miles north of Cushing. From the point of the discharge, Skull Creek flows about three more miles before entering the Cimarron River. The pipeline was operating at the time of the rupture and discharged about 300,000 gallons (7,110 barrels) of crude oil into the creek. The land where the rupture occurred, and the adjacent downstream parcel that the creek runs through, are both allotment lands owned by members of the Sac and Fox Nation.

The companies, the EPA, the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Sac and Fox Nation responded to the rupture and spill. The companies are continuing cleanup work in Skull Creek under the oversight of the EPA, and the pipeline was returned to operation at reduced pressure under the oversight of PHMSA through its corrective action authority. The Sac and Fox Nation deployed tribal monitors to observe the companies’ work at the spill site and monitor for impacts to natural and cultural resources.

KOSU reports:

The oil spilled about four miles upstream of where the creek feeds into the Cimarron River, which provides water for agriculture and irrigation in the region. The rupture occurred on private land owned by members of the Sac and Fox Nation.

The Osage Pipeline was back up and running ten days after the spill began, according to Holly Energy Partners, which operates the pipeline. But the damage lingered.

The spill killed fish and other wildlife, and leftover oil was still visible in the creek more than a year after the rupture. The oil has been spotted as far as two miles downstream of the spill; after the pipeline companies built a containment dam, the oil also spread upstream. Cleanup efforts destroyed hundreds of trees along the creek.

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That’s according to a complaint filed by the United States against Holly Energy Partners and Osage Pipeline Company.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency announced they had reached a settlement with the oil companies.

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