W&T Offshore Inc. was ordered to pay $1 million in penalties after pleading guilty to violating pollution laws while operating in the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. said.
The Houston-based oil and gas company, publicly traded since 2005, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon after admitting to a felony charge of tampering with federal pollution monitoring methods, U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente in New Orleans said today in a statement.
On at least six occasions in 2009, employees of a contractor working for W&T Offshore on the Ewing Banks 910 oil and gas production platform in the Gulf of Mexico, tampered with federal environmental protocols by running water samples through coffee filters before submitting them to laboratory testings, according to government prosecutors.
The employees who “tampered with the testing believed that running the produced water samples through coffee filters would ensure that the samples did not fail the laboratory tests and thus, W&T would not occur additional laboratory costs and regulatory scrutiny,” according to a joint statement by prosecutors and attorneys for W&T Offshore.
The company also admitted that in 2009, it failed to notify the U.S. Coast Guard that a three-day cleaning of oil from the platform resulted in the discharge of a “light visible sheen on the water around the platform.”
In addition to $1 million in penalties, Fallon sentenced W&T Offshore to three years probation, and required the company to undergo federal environment and safety audits at a majority of its 107 offshore facilities.
Mark Brewer, a spokesman for W&T Offshore, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail message after regular business hours seeking comment on the sentencing.
The case is in U.S. v. W&T Offshore Inc., 12-cr-00312, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans).