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ConocoPhillips Fined $490K For Toxic Wastewater Discharges - Update

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Energy company ConocoPhillips (COP: Quote) has been ordered to pay an administrative civil liability of $490,000 by the California Regional Water Quality Control Board for permit violations at the company's San Francisco Refinery at Rodeo, Contra Costa County. The Water Board is alleging that ConocoPhillips has discharged wastewater in violation of law to the San Pablo Bay.

The Quality Control Board said that the administrative civil liability, or ACL, is based on allegations that the company violated its effluent limitations seven times for acute toxicity, nine times for selenium, once for copper, and once for chlorine residual. These violations are subject to Administrative Civil Liability under Water Code Section 13385.

The complaint was issued by the Water Board of San Francisco Bay Region to address the above mentioned 18 violations that occurred between January 1, 2008, and June 30, 2009.

According to the Quality Control Board, ConocoPhillips can respond to the complaint by appearing before the Regional Water Board at a public hearing to contest the matter or by signing a waiver to pursue other options.

The Regional Water Board's meeting is scheduled for March 10, 2010. At this meeting, the Board will consider whether to impose administrative civil liability, decline the administrative civil liability, or refer the matter to the Attorney General for judicial enforcement at a public hearing.

Further, the Quality Control Board stated that the public hearing can be waived to pursue one of the options such as pay the liability as proposed in the complaint, request more time and postpone the date of the public hearing, engage in settlement discussions with the Regional Water Board Prosecution Team and propose a Supplemental Environmental Project, or SEP. In the SEP option, partial payment of the penalty may be deferred towards the completion of an environmental project.

To pursue one of these options, the waiver must be signed, dated, and received no later than 5:00 pm on January 19, 2010. It is at the discretion of the Regional Water Board Advisory Team to either accept or deny a waiver request, the Quality Control Board noted.

COP closed Monday's trading at $50.60, up $0.80, on a volume of 8.57 million shares.

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by RTT Staff Writer

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