American Shipper

Bouchard pleads guilty in oil spill, will pay $10 million fine

Bouchard pleads guilty in oil spill, will pay $10 million fine

   U.S. Justice Department officials in Boston said the Bouchard Transportation Co., a tug-and-barge operator based in Hicksville, N.Y., has agreed to plead guilty to two criminal charges relating to an oil spill in 2003, and pay a fine of $10 million.

   Bouchard was charged with one count of violating the Clean Water Act by negligently causing the discharge of thousands of gallons of oil into Buzzards Bay, Mass., on April 27, 2003. A second count alleged that Bouchard violated the Migratory Bird Treaty by killing protected bird species as a result of that oil spill.

   The spill occurred after an oil barge being towed by a tugboat, traveling outside a marked channel in Buzzards Bay, struck rocky shoals.

   The Bouchard mate in charge of the vessel “operated the tugboat in a negligent manner and because BTC allowed this individual to remain at the helm of one of its tugboats despite repeated concerns that were raised about his competency,” said the Justice Department in a statement released by Michael J. Sullivan, U.S. Attorney, District of Massachusetts.

   “Bouchard Transportation will also be required to comply with strict requirements aimed at preventing this type of environmental tragedy from ever happening again,” Sullivan said.

   The Justice Department said Bouchard would pay $9 million of the $10 million fine at the time of sentencing. Of that amount, $7 million will go to the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund, and $2 million to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

   Bouchard Transportation will also be placed on probation for three years. The final $1 million portion of the company’s criminal fine will be suspended if Bouchard complies with the conditions of probation, the Justice Department said.