The Oregon Coast Alliance notified Facebook on Aug. 26 that it intends to sue the social media giant in U.S. District Court in Oregon for leaving drilling equipment, debris and 6,500 gallons of drilling lubricant underneath the beach and seabed next to the Tillamook County village of Tierra del Mar.
As WW reported recently, neighbors in Tierra del Mar strongly opposed plans of a Facebook subsidiary, Edge Cable Holdings, to land a trans-Pacific telecommunications cable on a lot zoned residential in the middle of their community.
The Oregon Coast Alliance, an Astoria-based environmental nonprofit, teamed up with Tierra del Mar residents to appeal the conditional use permit Tillamook County granted the project, but the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals last week sided with Facebook and its subsidiary.
The new notice of a proposed lawsuit stems from what happened earlier this year when Facebook's contractor drilled horizontally out under the seafloor. In late April, when the drill bit was only about 500 feet from the terminus point nearly a half-mile offshore, the bit broke. The contractor then left all the drilling equipment in place, only belatedly informing state permitting agencies of the mishap.
The Coast Alliance, through its attorney, Charles Tebbutt of Eugene, informed Facebook yesterday that it believes that abandoned equipment is harming the environment.
"Edge has violated and remains in violation of the CWA and applicable state water quality control laws by discharging pollutants, including but not limited to solid waste, wrecked or discarded equipment, industrial waste, other pollutants, such as Bore-Gel, Quick-Bore, and Pac-L, and other as yet unidentified or undisclosed pollutants, from a point source into navigable waters," Tebbutt wrote in his letter to Facebook.
"Such violations have occurred each and every day since April 28, 2020, and are reasonably likely to continue in the future given Edge's failure to address the drilling accident of the Jupiter Submarine Cable System installation. The lawsuit will further allege that ECH's reckless actions associated with the abandonment of the drilling equipment and fluid is a direct violation of the Nationwide Permit 12 Terms and Conditions."
Under the Clean Water Act, Facebook could face fines of up to $55,800 per day of violation, Tebbutt noted, as well as covering mitigation costs and court and attorney's fees.
In a statement, Facebook acknowledged receipt of Tebbutt's letter.
"While we do not plan to make further comments on pending litigation, we want to be clear that we do not believe Edge Cable Holdings violated the Clean Water Act," the company said. "We understand the importance of the Oregon coastline and are committed to working with the community as a good environmental steward."