U.S. Asks Court to Require Energy Company to Pay for Oil Spill Cleanup

The United States filed a complaint on Friday in the Louisiana Middle District Court seeking for the court to require Metairie Energy Company Inc., and its owner and operator, Bernard Robichaux, to pay over $1.3 million to cover clean-up costs for an August 2016 spill. 

Reportedly, the oil spill occurred from the defendants’ Choctaw Bayou Oil and Gas Field which is located next to the Port Allen Lock in Iberville Parish, Louisiana. The federal government paid to clean up the oil spill using funds from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which is provided for under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) and is now seeking repayment from the company under the same Act. 

According to the United States, the responsible party in an oil spill is required to pay the clean-up costs for removal and damages under the OPA. The filing explained that Metairie Energy Company’s facility contains multiple above ground storage tanks for oil which can contain 400 barrels.  On August 29, 2016, an inspector found that one of the above ground tanks had discharged oil into the wetlands by the facility earlier in the month. Robichaux allegedly asked employees to clean the oil through using “commercial soaps on the affected wetlands.” 

In January 2017, the EPA learned that the oil had not been sufficiently cleaned up and found that 10 acres of wetlands were contaminated with the oil, the EPA then coordinated a clean-up effort with federal and private agencies.  “Due to the wide impact of the oil discharge, the impacted area was divided into zones and boom was placed to prevent further migration of the oil into the Port Allen Lock and surrounding wetlands,” the complaint said. Vegetation was removed, and samples from soil were collected before the project was completed in April 2018. 

The United States asked the court to rule that Metairie Energy Company and its owner are liable for all of the costs incurred, along with interests and any administrative costs.