Houston-based Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP vigorously defended its operating and environmental records in the wake of cutting a deal with the California attorney general’s office over a diesel fuel spill involving one of its pipeline operating subsidiaries. Since the incident last April, Kinder has replaced the multi-fuel pipeline in a $90 million investment in its northern California operations.

The company repeatedly stressed its cooperation with state and federal authorities, and emphasized that most remediation work connected with spill had been completed.

On Wednesday, Kinder reported that its subsidiary, Santa Fe Pacific Pipeline LP (SFPP), entered an agreement to settle misdemeanor charges that it characterized as “unintentional, non-negligent discharge of diesel fuel resulting from the April 2004 rupture of its 14-inch-diameter Concord, CA, to Sacramento pipeline and failure to provide timely notice of a threatened discharge to appropriate state agencies.” The state attorney general and Solano County District Attorney’s Offices said the Kinder Morgan subsidiary “pled guilty to four misdemeanor counts,” and they used some critical statements about the company’s operations and the seriousness of the alleged offenses (see Daily GPI, April 28)..

“While we continue to believe that KMP, its subsidiaries and our employees acted in good faith when these incidents occurred, and that no additional environmental impact was caused by the notification procedures we followed, we have determined that it is in the best interest of the company, our employees, our unit-holders and the state of California to settle this issue and put it behind us,” said Kinder Morgan CEO Richard Kinder.

Kinder Morgan said the settlement included the guilty plea and paying “slightly less than $3 million in fines and approximately $2 million that will be used for environmental improvement projects and enforcement training in California.” It also said a separate “agreement in principle” had been reached on additional misdemeanor charges in Los Angeles County related to what Kinder called “unintentional, non-negligent release of approximately five gallons of diesel fuel” at a LA Harbor terminal in May last year.

“Under the agreement in principle related to the Los Angeles County incident, the company will plead guilty to two additional misdemeanors and pay an additional fine of approximately $175,000.”

Kinder Morgan’s prepared statement emphasized that since the April 2004 incident in the Suisun Marsh, the company “has cooperated fully with federal and state agencies and has worked diligently to remediate the affected area. At this point in time the remediation is substantially complete.” It added that last December, the company completed a $95 million replacement of the 14-inch-diameter Concord-Sacramento pipeline with a 20-inch-diameter pipeline.

Kinder Morgan said it originally proposed the new pipeline in 2001, but it took three years to obtain all of the necessary permits before construction could begin, and the new pipeline now will “help meet growing demand for gasoline, jet fuel and diesel in northern California.”

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