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Baltimore City Paper

Penalties ahead if oil giant does not meet Clean Water Act's requirements

The Gulf of Mexico

, where the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill spoiled habitats and livelihoods, is not the only place where BP Products North America, Inc., has been faulted for its cavalier approach to business. Now, Baltimore's own Curtis Bay is also part of BP's legacy of industrial haphazardness-and a catalyst for forcing the company to do better.

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The oil giant's Curtis Bay terminal, which has been in operation since 1945, is a quarter-mile from Curtis Creek. Its above-ground tanks have the capacity to store nearly 22 million gallons of oil-a potentially huge environmental and public-health problem, should leaks occur. To handle such a possibility, the federal Clean Water Act requires facilities to have a response plan, and be prepared to kick it into gear on a moment's notice. In two exercises conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2005, BP completely failed to demonstrate it could quickly and effectively respond to a spill.

Now it's seven years later, and BP is finally being held to account for these failures. On Sept. 27 in U.S. District Court in Maryland, a "consent decree" involving BP, EPA, and the U.S. Department of Justice, was filed that intends to make the oil company fly right when it comes to the Clean Water Act's requirements for spill preparedness. The agreement, which is accompanied by a $210,000 penalty, puts in place a court-mandated plan that BP will fix matters not only in Curtis Bay, but at all of its U.S. oil-storage facilities.

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"After twice failing to pass oil spill response exercises at its Curtis Bay facility," EPA official Cynthia Giles writes in a public statement about the consent decree, "BP is required to put preventative measures into place at all of its terminals nationwide that will reduce the threat of oil spills and protect our nation's valuable waterways."


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