This week the US government announced a settlement with BP, requiring the oil company to pay $25 million in civil penalties for failing to maintain its equipment and causing an oil spill. This has nothing to do with the Gulf of Mexico, though—it’s the result of two incidents on Alaska’s North Slope in 2006. In March of that year, BP Exploration Alaska Inc. released more than 5,000 barrels of oil, and in August about 24 barrels, both resulting from a corroded pipeline.
In addition to the penalties, BP Alaska must also implement a “pipeline integrity management program” to prevent similar incidents. A Department of Justice spokesman indicated the penalty should serve as a warning to other companies that “they will be held accountable for the safety of their operations.”
The US can assess higher penalties, as it did in this case, when damage results from gross negligence. However, the required pipeline program is expected to cost the company about $60 million over three years, and it has already spent $200 million to replace the lines that leaked, so the civil penalty is a relatively small in comparison.
There is a 30-day public comment period on the consent decree. You can find more information here.