BP disputes fed's assertions of negligence in North Slope spill

The Anchorage Daily NewsNovember 18, 2010 

A federal probation officer is asking a judge to revoke BP's probation in Alaska -- which could mean new penalties for the oil giant in connection with its criminal conviction for a massive 2006 North Slope oil spill.

In a petition filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court, federal probation officer Mary Frances Barnes asserts that BP's conduct leading up to another North Slope spill, in November 2009, was criminally negligent. That constitutes a violation of BP's probation conditions set in 2007 for the spill the year before, the petition says.

The court filing sheds new light on the failures leading up to the 2009 spill, which was one of the biggest ever on the North Slope, though it didn't compare to the earlier spill.

BP disputes the government characterization of its operations.

"We've made measurable improvements in safety and reliability," spokesman Steve Rinehart said. Among other things, BP replaced corroded transit pipelines with new lines at a cost of $500 million, he noted.

In November 2007, BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. resolved a misdemeanor Clean Water Act charge arising from the earlier spill through a plea agreement. The corporation was sentenced to three years' probation and ordered to pay $20 million in fines and restitution. In that spill, more than 200,000 gallons of oil leaked from a corroded, poorly maintained pipeline on Alaska's North Slope.

The period of probation was set to end Nov. 28. But with the new court filing, it will continue until the matter is resolved. That is standard in such cases, Barnes said, speaking generally.

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