Dredge & Dock Company Working in Louisiana Fined $1 Million For Causing Oil Spill

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Published June 20, 2022

Dredge & Dock Company Working in Louisiana Fined $1 Million For Causing Oil Spill

Louisiana – United States Attorney Duane A. Evans announced that Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company, Llc (“Great Lakes”), a Texas company, was sentenced on June 14, 2022 for violating the Clean Water Act in connection with an oil spill and ordered to pay a $1 million fine.

According to court documents, Great Lakes admitted to negligently causing a harmful quantity of oil to be discharged into a navigable water of the United States, in violation of the Clean Water Act. The spill occurred on September 5, 2016, on the outskirts of Bay Long, near the Chenier Ronquille barrier island, east of Grand Isle, Louisiana.

Great Lakes admitted in the plea documents that under its contract with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”), it was responsible for locating all pipelines in the project area and complying with the federal Pipeline Safety Act and the “One Call” system established by the Louisiana Underground Utilities and Facilities Damage Prevention Law. Great Lakes admitted to violating those two laws by failing to notify pipeline companies about ongoing work near their pipelines for several months prior to the oil spill.

James Tassin, the Great Lakes subcontractor who drove the marsh buggy that caused the spill, was charged in a separate criminal case, No. 21-cr-8, and pled guilty as charged on March 18, 2021, and is awaiting sentencing. According to court documents in Tassin’s case, after Great Lakes stopped complying with One Call requirements, a Great Lakes employee instructed Tassin to use his marsh buggy to dig near pipelines, despite the fact that this digging was not in NOAA’s approved plans and without Great Lakes receiving approval from any pipeline companies that it was safe to dig.

On September 5, 2016, Tassin was in the area of that work when his marsh buggy collided with one of the pipelines, causing an oil spill. Tassin admitted that a Great Lakes employee instructed him not to tell anyone that he had been digging near the spill site, and Tassin obeyed. Great Lakes admitted in its plea documents that it supervised Tassin’s work and that its negligent supervision of Tassin caused the oil spill.

“The defendant in this case recklessly violated regulations designed to protect the environment and then tried to hide their actions,” said Kimberly Bahney, Special Agent in Charge, of EPA’s Criminal Enforcement Program in Louisiana. “This sentencing demonstrates that we will hold violators responsible for breaking our environmental laws.”

“This sentencing sends a strong message to those responsible for ensuring the safety and integrity of the Nation’s pipeline transportation system,” said Todd Damiani, Special Agent-in-Charge, Southern Region, Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General. “Together with our law enforcement and prosecutorial partners, we remain steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that justice is served.”

“The Department of Commerce OIG is dedicated to working with our partners to curb fraud, waste and abuse, especially when projects receiving NOAA funding result in environmental hazards. We greatly appreciate the cooperative efforts of the United States Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement counterparts in ensuring justice is served in this matter,” said Jeffrey Lysaght, Special Agent in Charge, U.S Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General.

Judge Greg G. Guidry imposed a $1 million criminal fine and a $125 mandatory special assessment fee on Great Lakes. Furthermore, Great Lakes previously agreed to pay the victim pipeline company $3,166,667 in a related civil case, and Tassin’s employer agreed to pay the victim an additional $1,666,667 in the same civil case, for a total payment to the victim of more than $4.8 million.

The EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division, the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General, and the Department of Commerce’s Office of Inspector General all looked into the case. The prosecution is led by Assistant United States Attorney Nicholas D. Moses.