Harvey Man Sentenced for Causing 2016 Oil Spill

Published 11:51 am Saturday, September 10, 2022

NEW ORLEANS – United States Attorney Duane A. Evans announced JAMES TASSIN, age 52, of Harvey, was sentenced to 2 years probation on September 8, 2022 for violating the Clean Water Act in connection with an oil spill.

According to court documents, TASSIN was a marsh buggy operator working on the Chenier Ronquille Barrier Island Restoration Project, which was overseen by contractors working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”). TASSIN was a subcontractor working for Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company, LLC (“Great Lakes”).  The project took place where Louisiana’s coastal wetlands meet the Gulf of Mexico, near several oil and gas pipelines, including Bay Marchand-to-Ostrica-to-Alliance (“BOA”) pipelines, which ran underneath and parallel to the dike on northern side of the island.

Months after the project began, the Great Lakes site manager at the project instructed TASSIN to dig an access channel for crew boats that was different from the access channel in the project plans provided by NOAA. This new access channel ran directly over the BOA pipelines, which were clearly marked at the time. TASSIN worked on that new access channel over multiple days.

On September 5, 2016, TASSIN drove his marsh buggy through the newly deepened access channel and struck one of the BOA pipelines, causing it to leak oil that created a sheen in the surrounding water in Bay Long. When TASSIN reported the spill to his supervisors, the site manager instructed TASSIN to use his marsh buggy to obscure the evidence that he had been deepening the unauthorized access channel, and TASSIN did so.

TASSIN was charged with a Clean Water Act violation on January 25, 2021. He pled guilty on March 18, 2021.

Great Lakes was criminally charged in a separate case before the Honorable Greg G. Guidry. According to court documents in that case, Great Lakes pled guilty, based on its supervision of TASSIN. Great Lakes agreed to pay a criminal fine of $1 million, in additional to civil payments to the victim pipeline company of $3,166,667 in a related civil case. TASSIN’s employer also agreed in the same civil case to pay the victim an additional $1,666,667, for a total payment to the victim of over $4.8 million.

Judge Susie Morgan sentenced TASSIN to 2 years probation, a $2,500 fine, and a special assessment fee of $25.

The case was investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division, the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General, and the Department of Commerce’s Office of Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas D. Moses is in charge of the prosecution.