© 2024 KOSU
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Oil companies agree to pay $7.4 million and clean up after oil spill in Northern Oklahoma creek

A road closure near the site of the spill, pictured in July 2022.
Graycen Wheeler
KOSU Radio
A road closure near the site of the spill, pictured in July 2022.

The Osage Pipeline carries oil from Cushing to a refinery in El Dorado, Kansas. The pipeline is one of dozens that run through the town, which bills itself “the pipeline crossroads of the world.”

The pipeline ruptured in July 2022. A 5-foot-long breach in the pipe gushed enough oil to halfway fill an Olympic swimming pool into Skull Creek, just north of Cushing.

The oil spilled about four miles upstream of where the creek feeds into the Cimarron River, which provides water for agriculture and irrigation in the region. The rupture occurred on private land owned by members of the Sac and Fox Nation.

The Osage Pipeline was back up and running ten days after the spill began, according to Holly Energy Partners, which operates the pipeline. But the damage lingered.

The spill killed fish and other wildlife, and leftover oil was still visible in the creek more than a year after the rupture. The oil has been spotted as far as two miles downstream of the spill; after the pipeline companies built a containment dam, the oil also spread upstream. Cleanup efforts destroyed hundreds of trees along the creek.

That’s according to a complaint filed by the United States against Holly Energy Partners and Osage Pipeline Company.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency announced they had reached a settlement with the oil companies.

“Today’s settlement is an important step in holding the company accountable for the impacts to Skull Creek and other potential effects,” Earthea Nance, the EPA Administrator for Region 6, which includes Oklahoma, said in a statement.

The oil companies will pay $7.4 million in civil penalties for violating the Clean Water Act. They’ll also need to finish cleaning up and restoring the site with oversight from the Sac and Fox Nation and the EPA.

According to the federal complaint, inspections identified the section that ruptured as a “potential area of concern,” in 2014. But the oil companies took no action until after the line burst.

Under the settlement agreement, the oil companies will need to treat the entire 135 miles of the 50-year-old pipeline as susceptible to failure. They’ll need to develop a Crack Management Program and provide more employee training on how to handle a rupture.

* indicates required

Graycen Wheeler is a reporter covering water issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
KOSU is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.
Related Content