January 12, 2001
Matson in pollution plea bargain
The company was charged in three separate criminal actions filed yesterdayday in federal court in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle.
In the agreement, Matson will plead guilty to six felony charges and will pay $3 million in fines half of which will be used to finance environmental projects in California and Washington. Of that money, $125,000 will go to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and $125,000 to the Point Reyes National Seashore.
According to the charges, Matson made false statements to the Coast Guard in connection with the 38,000-gt Lihue. Under federal law, lships such as the Lihue are required to maintain Oil Record Books that document the proper handling and disposal of oil and oil-contaminated waters generated on the ships. The Coast Guard is responsible for inspecting the ships and reviewing the documentation in order to determine whether the ship is following proper pollution prevention measures.
The criminal charges allege that on several occasions between 1996 and 1998, crew members on the Lihue made entries into the Oil Record Book which falsely stated that bilge waters contaminated with waste oil had been processed through the ship's oil water separator.
While entries in the Oil Record Book indicated that the bilge waters had been processed and waste oils had been removed prior to the discharge overboard of the bilge water, the oil water separator on the Lihue was not, in fact, functional.
According to the criminal charges, had the Coast Guard known of the mechanical problem on the Lihue, the agency would have prevented Matson from operating the vessel.
As part of the case, Matson and the government have agreed that the company will be placed on probation for a period of three years, during which time the company must comply with a detailed environmental compliance plan and must abide by all federal, state and local environmental laws.
"You cannot lie to federal regulators in an effort to prevent them from determining whether you have polluted our waters," said U.S. Attorney Robert S. Mueller, III, in San Francisco. "We are committed to protecting the environment against such criminal conduct."
CSO management changes