FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 8, 2016
Chris Wilke, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance
(206) 297-7002; firstname.lastname@example.org
Plan requires clean up of ongoing pollution to Elliott Bay and protection against oil spill threats
SEATTLE, WA—Puget Soundkeeper Alliance (Soundkeeper) has resolved a major Clean Water Act suit with an agreement that will reduce industrial stormwater pollution and protect against oil spills to Elliott Bay. In a Consent Decree filed today, Rainier Petroleum agreed to control previously errant runoff from its fueling pier and install a filtration system to treat all stormwater from its Pier 15 facility on Harbor Island at the mouth of the Duwamish River. Importantly, Rainier, which fuels the Washington State ferries, also agreed to comply with critical oil spill protection measures required by the state-issued permit including adequate containment for its 82,250 gallon lube oil tank farm on the Elliott Bay shoreline. Under the agreement, Rainier Petroleum will pay $280,000 in lieu of penalty to third-party mitigation and restoration projects in Puget Sound.
“Although Rainier Petroleum’s entire business is handling risky petroleum products, this facility simply ignored basic spill prevention laws – placing Puget Sound at serious risk of an oil spill that would have been catastrophic for marine life,” said Puget Soundkeeper and Executive Director Chris Wilke. “Rainier Petroleum’s legal agreement to contain its tank farm is a milestone in the effort to protect our waterways from these risks.”
Soundkeeper filed the suit against Rainier Petroleum in 2014 in US District Court, under the Clean Water Act’s “citizen suit” provision, which authorizes concerned community members to take action to protect public waterways when public agencies fail to do so. In 2015, the Federal Court ruled on summary judgment that Rainier Petroleum had violated the state-issued Industrial Stormwater General Permit numerous times – including failure to monitor its toxic discharges, grossly inadequate oil spill protection measures, and violations of water quality standards for Puget Sound. Owned by Maxum Petroleum and Pilot Thomas Logistics, Rainier Petroleum is a subsidiary of a lucrative multinational Texas-based fueling corporation.
This settlement is a critical step towards reducing toxic industrial stormwater and preventing a major oil spill to Puget Sound, addressing chief concerns for the recovery of endangered salmon and orca whales.
“Despite Rainier Petroleum’s vast financial resources, this facility simply refused to comply with even the most basic permit requirements.” said Soundkeeper staff attorney Katelyn Kinn. “Its recalcitrance and disregard for the law was not only unfair to local businesses expending resources to comply, it was an insult to Seattle’s iconic Elliott Bay, home to the giant Pacific octopus and harbor seals, and a key waterway for migrating salmon.”
The settlement directly remedies compliance issues at the site. As a result, Rainier Petroleum is required to reduce the amount of pollution discharged to Elliott Bay by improving its operations and installing advanced stormwater treatment systems to filter stormwater runoff before it is discharged. The Pier 15 facility is located at the mouth of the Duwamish River, which has been a dumping ground for industrial waste throughout much of Seattle’s history. The EPA recently released a $342 million cleanup plan for the Duwamish that will remove many contaminants in the river’s sediments, but the ongoing health of the river relies on preventing pollution at the source.
Puget Soundkeeper does not receive any money from this settlement beyond direct legal expenses. All additional settlement funds will go to the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment’s Puget Sound Stewardship & Mitigation Fund for environmental benefit projects in the affected watershed and nearby waters.
The pending consent decree is subject to approval by the Court and the United States Department of Justice.
Puget Soundkeeper was represented in the lawsuit by Claire Tonry and Knoll Lowney of Smith & Lowney, PLLC.
Puget Soundkeeper is a community advocacy group whose mission is to protect and preserve the waters of Puget Sound. Soundkeeper is a licensed member of the international Waterkeeper Alliance, which fights to protect waterways around the world.