Energy company pleads guilty to polluting water off Louisiana coast

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - An oil and gas exploration and production company agreed to pay a $3.1 million fine after pleading guilty to a felony Clean Water Act violation. As part of the guilty plea, XPLOR Energy SPV-1, Inc. will also serve a three year term of probation.

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite announced the plea Thursday (Nov. 20). It still needs to be accepted by the court.

XPLOR operated an oil and natural gas platform off the coast of Louisiana between 1997 and 2011. Prosecutors alleged the company knowingly pumped a pollutant known as "produced water" or "brine" into the Gulf of Mexico. The produced water, which contains oil, was supposed to be pumped into a disposal well near the platform. However, the wells had insufficient capacity to hold the produced water and the injection lines were faulty.

In November of 2011, XPLOR transferred ownership and operation of the platform to another company. The new owner discovered the platform was discharging the water containing oil and other harmful substances into U.S. waters. The new owner contacted the authorities to report the discharge.

Prosecutors said XPLOR knew about the discharge and did not fix the problem. The produced water leaked into the Gulf for almost two years. XPLOR's actions saved the company approximately $1.5 million dollars.

"Knowingly conducting unpermitted discharges of produced water from oil and gas production platforms is a crime," said Peggy Hatch, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. "DEQ is proud of the collaborative work of our federal and state investigators to halt these illegal practices and bring the perpetrators to justice, and will continue to enforce state and federal laws that protect our environment."

XPLOR is an Oklahoma corporation residing in Southlake, Texas

U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance set formal sentencing for March 4, 2015.

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