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A Tulsa, Okla., company must pay $1 million in fines and restitution for dumping 4,700 gallons of crude oil into a tributary of the North Platte River, a federal judge ruled Friday. 

The ruling stems from a 2011 spill from a Nadel and Gussman Rockies LLC storage tank system into Emigrant Creek near Rawlins.

An investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Land Management concluded an independent contractor was regularly draining produced water into the creek. NGR officials were aware of the discharges, but did not report them to the authorities, the investigation found. 

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson orders NGR to pay a $357,000 criminal fine and $430,500 in restitution, $200,000 of which goes to a federal fund that finances oil spill responses. The remaining $230,500 in restitution will go to Carbon County, which will use $80,500 to buy equipment for cleaning up oil spills while $150,000 will go to the Little Snake River, Saratoga-Encampment-Rawlins and Medicine Bow conservation districts to improve water quality.

NGR will make an additional community service payment of $212,000 to the Yellowstone and Grant Teton national park foundations.

“The defendant’s production and storage practices put the environment at serious risk,” Jeffrey Martinez, special agent in charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Wyoming, said in a statement. “In addition, the company provided false information to EPA and BLM emergency responders, and did not begin cleanup activities until ordered to do so by the EPA. It is appropriate, therefore, that in addition to a criminal fine, the company will be required to pay to improve Wyoming’s natural environment and to implement a compliance plan to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

The spill was first spotted by a resident who noticed an oil sheen in the creek.

The government investigation found 375,000 gallons of produced water containing high levels of arsenic and 113 barrels of oil were discharged into Emigrant Creek in mid-April 2011.

The independent contractor responsible for the discharges, Patrick Ely, told NGR Operations Manager Hugo Cartaya of the spills. Cartaya never reported them, according to the investigation.  

NGR pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Water Act in November. A federal grand jury indicted Cartaya on eight felony counts in September. The charges included discharging oil into waters of the United States and making false statements, the EPA said in a release. 

Cartaya pleaded not guilty. His trail is scheduled to begin Feb. 18.

Attempts to reach NGR for comment were unsuccessful.  

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Reach energy reporter Benjamin Storrow at 307-266-0535 or benjamin.storrow@trib.com. Follow him on Twitter @bstorrow

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