To Report or Not to Report a Petroleum Spill:

Environmental attorney John Kolaga wants you to know: In New York, the Rules, They are A-Changing

Every person who works with petroleum products in their business should know that, if you have a petroleum spill, you need to report it, and fast.  The failure to report a petroleum spill in a timely way can result in large fines – up to $25,000 a day, or more in some cases – and no one wants to be worried about that kind of legal nightmare.

               While standards vary depending on the location and the volume of the spill, the New York State Oil Spill Prevention, Control, and Compensation Law generally imposes a duty to report a petroleum spill to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation on any person responsible for causing the discharge, as well as on the owner or operator of the facility from which the discharge occurs, within two hours of discovery. 

               But be aware:  This law may be changing soon to extend the duty to report petroleum spills to additional individuals.  New proposed DEC regulations, if adopted, will extend the legal duty to report to “any contractor in a contractual relationship” with a facility owner, tank system owner, or operator;  or to “any other party and its contractors who have been retained as part of a business transaction related to the facility.”

               Lawyers from the Environmental & Energy Law Section of the New York State Bar recently convened to discuss these changes and to whom the DEC likely intends this new language to apply.  There was no consensus.

               Given this lack of clarity, any individual working at and around a facility which handles significant volumes of petroleum should proceed cautiously should they become aware of a petroleum spill at a job site.  To do otherwise could be a costly mistake.

If you have any questions or concerns on how this may affect you or your organization reach out to John Kolaga.