Two Pipeline Companies and Three Employees Enter Pleas in Criminal Case Arising from June 1999 Gasoline Pipeline Rupture in Bellingham, WA
In the largest criminal and civil settlement ever obtained in a pipeline rupture case, Olympic Pipeline Company agree to pay $11 million to resolve criminal charges arising from rupture of a petroleum pipeline and subsequent gasoline explosion in Bellingham, WA on June 10, 1999. Equilon Pipeline Company, Olympic’s owner at the time, will pay a $15 million criminal fine and $10 million civil penalty. The rupture and subsequent explosion resulted in the release of approximately 236,000 gallons of gasoline into nearby creeks, killing two 10-year-old boys and an 18-year-old man and extensively damaging the waters, shorelines, and other natural resources. The charges, the first ever brought under the Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Safety Act, included three criminal counts for knowingly violating the act, which sets minimum safety standards for training employees who operate interstate pipelines that carry hazardous liquids.
Olympic and Shell Pipeline Company (Equilon’s “successor-in-interest”) agreed to inspect and improve pipelines throughout the United States, remedial programs estimated to cost more than $75 million. The firms also each agreed to a 5-year corporate probation. Frank Hopf, Jr. of Woodlands, TX, a former Olympic manager, and Ronald D. Brentson of Kent, WA, a supervisor, also pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Seattle, WA. They will be sentenced later this month. The case was investigated by OIG and EPA with assistance from the FBI and state and local officials.