BP's subsidiary in Alaska will pay a $25m (£15m) civil penalty under a settlement that comes five years after more than 200,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from company pipelines.
The penalty is the highest on record levied per barrel by national regulators, and US Attorney for Alaska Karen Loeffler said it underlines the seriousness of BP's conduct. Analysts said that the fine was a worrying precedent for BP, which faces a considerable fine over the spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year.
"This penalty should serve as a wake-up call to all pipeline operators that they will be held accountable for the safety of their operations and their compliance with the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the pipeline safety laws," assistant US Attorney Ignacia Moreno said.
Ms Loeffler said BP Alaska admitted that it cut corners and failed to do what was required to maintain adequately its pipelines. BP Alaska spokesman Steve Rinehart acknowledged the settlement terms, including an independent contractor to monitor operations at the vast Prudhoe Bay field. "We believe the terms of the agreement are fair," he said.
A leak in March 2006 in a transit line, also called a feeder line, between a gathering centre and a pump station for the trans-Alaska oil pipeline accounted for most of the oil spilled, about 212,000 gallons.