Chief Engineer of Towing Vessel Admits Negligently Discharging Oil into Kill Van Kull

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FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Department of Justice Building is pictured

NEWARK, N.J. – The chief engineer of a towing vessel today admitted his role in negligently discharging marine diesel fuel oil into the Kill Van Kull, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.

Michael Brown, 67, of Kingston, Tennessee, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leda D. Wettre to an information charging him with violating the Clean Water Act by negligently discharging marine diesel fuel oil while refueling his towing vessel at the International Matex Tank Terminal’s Mobil Pier in Bayonne, New Jersey.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

On Sept. 12, 2016, Brown failed to exercise due care in conducting the transfer of fuel oil to the towing vessel, resulting in the discharge of hundreds of gallons of fuel oil into the Kill Van Kull. Brown also admitted that, in response to questions by the U.S. Coast Guard, he failed to disclose that the origin of the spill was the towing vessel.

The Clean Water Act, as amended by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, makes it a crime for a person to negligently discharge oil into or upon the navigable waters of the United States in such quantities as may be harmful. The Kill Van Kull, a tidal straight that connects Newark Bay with Upper New York Bay, is a navigable water of the United States.

Brown has agreed, as part of his plea agreement, to pay a fine of $4,000 to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

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The charge to which Brown pleaded guilty carries a maximum penalty of one year imprisonment and a maximum fine equal to the greatest of $100,000 or twice the gross gain or loss resulting from the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 7, 2023.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service under the direction of Assistant Special Agent in Charge Damon Youmans with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen P. O’Leary of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit.