Summary of Criminal Prosecutions
S.D. Ohio 1:16-CR-00107
On November 22, 2016, representatives of Duke Energy Beckjord LLC plead guilty in federal court to negligent discharge of oil, in violation of the Clean Water Act. The filed plea agreement includes a $1 million fine in addition to restitution.
According to court documents, on August 18, 2014, Duke Energy caused a spill of approximately 9,000 gallons of diesel fuel from its Walter C. Beckjord generating station facility in New Richmond, Ohio to the Ohio River. The oil sheen on the Ohio River from the discharge extended for approximately 15 miles.
A Duke Energy operator transferring fuel from three 705,000-gallon capacity tanks ran the forwarding pump too long and over-filled the two 30,000-gallon capacity above-ground fuel tanks. Diesel fuel spilled from the tank overfill vents into a concrete secondary containment area. A valve on the secondary containment area had been improperly left open by other Duke employees, causing the spilled diesel fuel to escape the containment area and enter directly into the Ohio River.
The Ohio River is a source of drinking water for residents of both Kentucky and Ohio. As a result of the spill, the Northern Kentucky, Greater Cincinnati and Louisville water supply intakes were closed on August 19, 2014. Water intakes were reopened the next day, after water samples did not detect the diesel fuel in the drinking water.
Significant resources were expended by at least 35 government and private sector agencies in the emergency response and clean-up related to the discharge. Duke Energy’s prompt clean-up efforts resulted in the recovery of only a small portion of the discharged oil. To date, Duke Energy has reimbursed more than $1.2 million to those entities for costs incurred in connection with the spill. Further, Duke Energy has deconstructed the bulk fuel oil storage tanks involved in the spill and no longer stores bulk fuel oil at the Beckjord facility.
As part of the plea agreement, Duke Energy has agreed to also pay $100,000 to the Foundation for Ohio River Education, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the cultural, ecological and economic value of the Ohio River through community education. Duke Energy will also issue a written public apology in an advertisement published in the Cincinnati Enquirer.
- Clean Water Act (CWA)