Fuel-Tanker driver pleads guilty to oil pollution

photo by Greg Lincoln

On October 22, 2018, 52-year-old Louis Nations pled guilty to oil pollution, a violation of Alaska’s environmental laws. Magistrate Judge Kay Adams presided over the hearing.
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation’s (ADEC) Environmental Crimes Unit (ECU) along with the Valdez Police Department (VPD) investigated a traffic collision involving a Big State Logistics (BSL) semi-truck driven by Louis Nations, resulting in a spill of 2,800 gallons of #2 Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel. A tributary (that supports a variety of fish species including salmon) of the Robe River is approximately 50 feet northwest of the spill site. During the investigation, the crimes unit and Valdez police reviewed video and conducted interviews.
The February 22, 2018 collision involved one vehicle, a BSL fuel tanker, a pup trailer, and the truck driver, Louis Nations. The semi-truck and trailer were about 20 feet off the north side of the Richardson Highway directly opposite of Dayville Road. Both fuel transport tanks ruptured and spilled fuel. Tire tracks indicated the truck continued almost straight across the intersection before crashing. Dash camera footage of Nations’ BSL truck cab shows Nations passing a flashing yellow light warning of an upcoming intersection. Nations drove into the intersection at a speed of approximately 47 miles per hour and ran into a snowbank. Witnesses to the collision said Nations told them that he did not see the warning light on Dayville Road and entered the intersection too fast to make the turn.
Investigation revealed BSL hired Nations in 2015. On February 22, 2018, Nations had just returned from two days off, attended a quarterly safety training before starting his shift, and had already made one prior run to town. Mechanics logs and an inspection of the truck Nations was driving indicated that it had no mechanical problems that would have contributed to the collision.
Magistrate Judge Adams sentenced Nations to pay a $5,000 fine and serve ten days in jail. He suspended the payment of a portion of the fine and all of the jail time and placed Nations on probation for one year. One of the conditions of probation requires Nations to complete 60 hours of community work service for an environmental conservation organization.
Fuel-tanker truck collisions pose a huge risk to the environment and other drivers. The spilled fuel may endanger public health, imperil drinking water, devastate natural resources, and disrupt the economy. For more information on how to report a spill, consult ADEC’s web page at https://dec.alaska.gov/spar/ppr/spill-information/reporting.
The ECU is tasked with conducting statewide investigations of criminal violations of Alaska statutes and regulations for ADEC. For information about the ECU, or to report an environmental crime the public may contact the ECU by phone, via email, or on ADEC’s website: https://dec.alaska.gov/das/ecu/.