ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Oil giant BP is fighting charges that it violated probation for a 2006 oil spill on Alaska’s North Slope by allowing another large spill in the area in 2009.
The Anchorage Daily News says BP pleaded not guilty Monday to probation violations related to a criminal conviction for the 2006 North Slope oil spill. The company has been on probation since it pleaded guilty to violating the federal Clean Water Act for that spill.
Federal prosecutors say BP violated probation when it spilled about 13,000 gallons of oil onto the tundra at the Lisburne oil field three years later.
BP Alaska spokesman Steve Rinehart said the company has met all the terms of its 2007 plea agreement and does not need to remain on probation.
In the meantime, the company agreed to abide by the terms of its probation while the case proceeds in federal court. Probation had been set to expire Nov. 28.
If BP is found guilty of violating its probation, it could face five additional years of probation and a $12 million fine, assistant U.S. attorney Aunnie Steward told a federal magistrate judge in Anchorage.
In 2006, more than 200,000 gallons of oil leaked onto the tundra in what turned out to be the largest-ever oil spill on the North Slope. The spill was blamed on neglect and a corroded pipe.
BP’s 2007 plea agreement included three years of probation and $20 million in fines and restitution.
While smaller, the 2009 spill in the Lisburne field was also one of the North Slope’s largest spills. The company’s probation officer, Mary Frances Barnes, filed a petition to revoke probation in November. She said BP violated its probation when it failed to take action on warning signs that the Lisburne pipeline was compromised months before it leaked.
Rinehart said the 2009 spill should be viewed in the context of the significant improvements the company has undergone to make the Prudhoe Bay operation safer.
A decision on whether BP will remain on probation is up to U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline. He has not yet scheduled a hearing.