Company With Oklahoma Roots To Pay $5 Billion For Polluting

Monday, April 7th 2014, 11:22 pm
By: News On 6

A company with deep Oklahoma roots will pay a $5 billion for polluting America, including three toxic sites in Oklahoma.

Officials at the U.S. Department of Justice called the pollution a historic injustice to the American people and our environment, and said the settlement will, "clean-up a toxic history the Old Kerr-McGee unsuccessfully tried to walk away from."

On the 170 acres, it's difficult to find many remains of the Old Kerr-McGee refinery in Cleveland, Oklahoma. It was shut down in 1972, but the pollution left behind was apparent.

Ten years ago Oklahoma's Department of Environmental Quality found industrial chemicals in the soil and groundwater. The site's new owner was ordered to clean it up, but went bankrupt before finishing.

The judge in the $5 billion pollution settlement said that bankruptcy was by design to escape the huge costs of remediation. That plan failed, and now Kerr-McGee is paying up.

The DEQ is in the planning phases of the remediation at the site. Test wells are strategically placed to monitor the groundwater below the surface.

Meanwhile, federal officials will determine exactly how much Oklahoma will get from the settlement. State regulators say it will be plenty.

The money will also pay to clean up the old Kerr-McGee refinery in Cushing, which, in the 1960s, was used as a uranium processing plant. The DEQ says the cleanup at that site will be a long term project and they are just now in the planning stages.

The third site is Kerr-McGee's old Cimarron Nuclear site in Crescent, Oklahoma, shut down in 1975. The soil and groundwater are polluted with uranium. State and federal remediation efforts will work to remove the uranium, but again it will be a long, expensive project.

Oklahoma DEQ officials say, to them, the settlement is nothing more than paperwork.

"I look at this and I'm sort of happy that we get to fund our projects and try to tie up any loose ends that we may have here in Oklahoma on some of these things, but really this is a legal process," said Scott Thompson with the DEQ. "You go to court, a judge figures out what's right and what's wrong."

The judge in this case sees it differently, sending a clear message that Kerr-McGee and its corporate allies were wrong.

In his ruling U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Allan Gropper said, "There can be no dispute that Kerr-McGee acted to free substantially all its assets - certainly its most valuable assets - from 85 years of environmental and tort liabilities."

The President and CEO of Anadarko Petroleum, which owns Kerr-McGee, said in a statement, "We are grateful to our stakeholders who have maintained their confidence and trust in our people and our assets."

The company also announced it will be rewarded for cleaning up the toxic sites, cashing in on $550 million in tax benefits.