Class Sues Plains Pipeline for Illinois Oil Spill

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (CN) – Plains All American Pipeline apologized for a 2015 oil spill in Madison County, Illinois, but hasn’t paid homeowners who were injured by it, three residents of Highland claim in a federal class action.

Kevin Nodine et al. sued Plains All American Pipeline on Thursday for the July 10, 2015 pipeline rupture at the Pocahontas Pump Station, which sent more than 4,000 gallons of crude oil into waterways in and around Highland, a city of 9,800. The oil drained into Silver Lake, a 574-acre water body that provides drinking water to Highland and several surrounding villages.

Plains All American was aware of erosion issues at the pump station eight days before the spill, the complaint states: “Despite having knowledge of the leakage, defendants failed to make immediate repairs on the containment dike at the Pocahontas Pump Station.”

Silver Lake was closed to recreational use for 12 days due to the spill and the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration shut down the Pocahontas pipeline, finding that continued operation would be hazardous to life, property, and the environment without immediate corrective actions.

Analysis showed inadequate maintenance, improper tubing and faulty work by contractors as contributing factors to the spill, the plaintiffs say.

“Defendants not only had a pattern and practice of shoddy safety and maintenance procedures on their pipelines, they had knowledge that the failure to properly maintain their pipelines creates a substantial threat of a discharge of oil that can cause damage to plaintiffs and the environment,” the lawsuit states.

“This is not the first time defendants’ negligent and unlawful conduct has resulted in a devastating oil spill. On May 19, 2015, defendants’ negligence resulted in a corroded pipeline rupturing and spilling approximately 101,000 gallons of crude oil along the Gaviota coast in Santa Barbara, California. Nearly 21,000 gallons made its way through a storm culvert out into the Pacific Ocean.”

Plains Pipeline’s issues go back even further, according to the class action. On Aug. 10, 2010, the Department of Justice said the defendants had agreed to pay $41 million to upgrade 10,420 miles of crude oil pipelines in response to 10 oil spills in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Kansas.

“The July 2015 Highland oil spill, California oil spill and other oil spills are clear examples of defendants putting profit over safety at the expense of innocent people and wildlife as these spills resulted from the unlawful acts and negligence of Defendants, and their failure to properly maintain and inspect their equipment to prevent these spills,” the complaint states.

Plains Pipeline said in an email that it does not comment on pending litigation.

The plaintiffs claim the Highland spill continues to harm the environment and has diminished property values. In Highland alone, 30 miles northeast of St. Louis, the spill has affected 380 residential and 120 agricultural parcels, the complaint states.

They seek class certification of all people and businesses affected by the spill and punitive damages for trespass, negligence, public nuisance and continuing private nuisance.

They are represented by John Driscoll in St. Louis, who was unavailable for comment Thursday morning.