Attempting to send a clear warning to would-be oil spillers and water polluters, the federal government has required ConocoPhillips to pay $2.233 million for cleanup costs and $80,000 in fines because of a 2004 oil spill near Tacoma, Washington. A day earlier, the state of Washington tagged the company with a $540,000 fine. Yet, the civil settlement means that the company will likely avoid criminal charges in the case, and furthermore, the company will not be forced to accept any legal responsibility for the accident.
In October of 2004, investigators say, the ConocoPhillips-owned oil tanker Polar Texas dumped more than 1,000 gallons of crude oil in the Dalco Passage of Puget Sound, contaminating 21 miles of beachfront. Federal, state, and tribal authorities are in the process of seeking further compensation for potential environmental damages. The $80,000 in fines was for violations of the federal Clean Water Act.
In announcing the settlement, which was finalized by the U.S. Justice Department in San Francisco, Capt. Steve Metruck, Coast Guard captain of the port for Puget Sound, said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“TodayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s settlement with ConocoPhillips sends a strong signal to the tank vessel industry that those who spill oil and pollute the pristine waters of Puget Sound will be held fully financially accountable.Ã¢â‚¬Â However, for many environmental groups and industry analysts, the failure to press for criminal charges represents a serious mistake with regard to the regulation of tanker safety and prevention of further accidents.
ConocoPhillips announced a profit of $5.2 billion in the second quarter of 2006.