- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

HONOLULU (AP) - The shipping company responsible for a molasses spill that killed more than 26,000 fish and other marine life in Hawaii will plead guilty to federal criminal charges.

Federal prosecutors on Tuesday filed two misdemeanor charges against Matson Terminals Inc. for last year’s spill of 233,000 gallons of molasses.

The charges, violations of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, are for illegally releasing molasses without a permit from a pipe into Honolulu Harbor on Sept. 9 and 10, 2013.

Matson said in a statement the company and the U.S. attorney’s office have signed a plea agreement to plead guilty and pay penalties totaling $1 million. The penalties include a $400,000 fine, $300,000 to Waikiki Aquarium to support coral programs and invasive algae cleanups, and $300,000 to Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

A judge still has to approve the deal.

The company said it still faces potential civil claims by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state.

“While we regret the incident, we are focused on resolving the matter, subject to the court’s approval of the agreement,” CEO and President Matt Cox said in a statement. “We continue to cooperate with the state and EPA in an effort to address impacts from the incident.”

Enough molasses to fill about seven rail cars - 1,400 tons - oozed out from a section of pipe Matson thought had been sealed off, suffocating marine life and discoloring the water as it sunk to the bottom of Honolulu Harbor.

Matson executives have said they had not prepared for the possibility of a spill, despite transporting molasses from the pipeline for about 30 years.

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Follow Jennifer Sinco Kelleher at https://www.twitter.com/JenHapa .

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