- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 19, 2016

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - BP Exploration Alaska and Hilcorp Alaska have agreed to pay fines imposed by the federal government for spilling oil and waste on the state’s North Slope.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the settlement with the companies Monday. Hilcorp will pay $100,000 in federal penalties, while BP Exploration Alaska has been fined $30,000 for federal penalties and $100,000 for state violations, KTOO-FM reported (https://bit.ly/2a4mblG).

Both companies have been accused of violating the Clean Water Act and affecting Arctic wetlands that support caribou, geese and other wildlife.

EPA spokesman Mark MacIntyre said the North Slope is one the most ecologically sensitive places where companies operate in Alaska.

“We know that the tundra is kind of like a big sponge and is completely overlaying water that drains off and runs to various tributaries to rivers and then rivers to the sea,” MacIntyre said.

Hilcorp’s fine stems from a breach in a production line on its Milne Point field that caused nearly 10,000 gallons of crude oil and water to spill onto an acre of land. A frozen rupture in one of BP’s lines in Prudhoe Bay caused the release of 700 gallons of waste across 33 acres of tundra and gravel pad.

MacIntyre said cleanup efforts on the North Slope have been hampered by winter weather conditions.

“A lot of times, frankly these spills happen at the worst time of the year, when it’s the coldest, when it’s the darkest, when (it) really puts people at risk in terms of responding and trying to fix things when they spill,” MacIntyre said.

Hilcorp said in a statement the company is proud of its response to the spill and has since inspected other similar pipeline sections. BP issued a statement saying the company has worked to improve its safety and risk management in response to the incident.

BP has settled its case with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation for its spill, resulting in the $100,000 fine. A spokeswoman for the department said the state is still investigating Hilcorp’s Milne Point spill.

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Information from: KTOO-FM, https://www.ktoo.org

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