2020 Colonial Pipeline spill revealed to be largest gasoline spill in U.S. history

2020 Colonial Pipeline spill revealed to be largest gasoline spill in U.S. history

July 25, 2022 0 By Ellen Novack

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 8: Joseph Blount, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer, Colonial Pipeline testifies during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing to examine threats to critical infrastructure, focusing on examining the Colonial Pipeline cyber attack at the U.S. Capitol on June 8, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images)

Colonial Pipeline Company was fined just $5 million for the worst gasoline spill in U.S. history—a pittance compared with CEO Joe Blount’s net worth, to say nothing of Colonial Pipeline’s $1.3 billion in revenue in 2020, the year the spill occurred.

New estimates of the damage caused by a crack 5 feet long in a section of Colonial Pipeline Co.’s 5,500-mile pipeline shows its 2020 spill was the worst in U.S. history, sending nearly 2 million gallons of gas into the Oehlet Nature Preserve near Hunterville, North Carolina. It took 18 days before teenagers discovered the rupture on Aug. 14, 2020, and to this day, Colonial Pipeline still hasn’t completely cleaned up its mess. The company originally thought just 63,000 gallons of gasoline spilled before revising that number up to 1.2 million gallons. It’s expected to take years until the final quarter of that spill is finally cleaned up.

Colonial Pipeline was recently fined $5 million by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality for the gasoline spill—a pittance compared with the company’s $1.3 billion in revenue generated the year the spill occurred. It’s also not the first such spill the company’s experienced. The Colonial Pipeline itself is the largest refined oil pipeline in the country, so naturally it’s experienced a lot of environmental disasters. Colonial Pipeline even has an Environmental Protection Agency page devoted to its spills, including a 1996 incident that sent 1 million gallons of diesel fuel into South Carolina’s Reedy River. On behalf of the EPA, the Justice Department sued Colonial Pipeline in 2000 over its history of spills and poor maintenance on its pipeline.