Judge Approves Settlement Over Am. Samoa Oil Spill

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Tri Marine Consent Decree calls for $1.05 million in penalties

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Dec. 20, 2015) – A federal court judge in Honolulu has sign the Consent Decree where Tri Marine International and its affiliates are to — among other things — pay more than $1 million in civil penalties for an oil spill in Pago Pago last year.

However, the decree does not specifically any amount of money that would benefit the people and government of American Samoa.

The decree between Tri Marine, which has a US purse seiner fleet based in American Samoa, and the US Justice Department (USDOJ) entered into in October this year, follows an oil spill in Pago Pago Harbor that was caused by one of the defendants’ vessels, Captain Vincent Gann.

Provisions of the Consent Degree, signed by US District Court Judge J. Michael Seabright, states that the defendants shall pay to the US government the total sum of $1.05 million, plus interest, as a civil penalty. The penalty amount includes $176,225 attributed to the oil spill violation alleged in Count One of the four–count complaint.

The 26-page decree, however, does not specify that any money from the civil penalty would go directly to the American Samoa Government. The decree states that the money is to deposited into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund — pursuant to federal law.

Uses for the fund, include — among other things — removal costs incurred by the Coast Guard and the US Environmental Protection Agency; access by states for removal activities; payments to federal, state, and Indian tribe trustees to conduct natural resource damage assessments and restorations; and payment of claims for uncompensated removal costs and damages, according to information on the USCG website.

Tri Marine had said in a statement in October this year that they cooperated with the U.S. Coast Guard and USDOJ but did not admit any liability as part of the settlement.

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