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Former Shell employee ordered to pay $19.3M in fuel leak

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A former pipeline inspector must pay nearly $19.3 million in restitution for his role in a jet fuel leak at General Mitchell International Airport three years ago.

Federal prosecutors said in a news release issued Thursday that Randy Jones had been ordered to pay the $19.3 million and serve five years’ probation. The release did not say when he received the sentence or which federal judge handed it down.

Online court records did not immediately list information about the sentencing. They did, however, show that U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa in Milwaukee was assigned the case and Jones was scheduled to be sentenced Thursday.

Jones’ attorney did not immediately return a voicemail message seeking comment.

According to court documents and the prosecutors’ news release, Jones, of Houma, L.a, worked as corrosion coordinator for Shell Pipeline Co. from 2010 to 2012. He was responsible for an underground Shell pipeline that supplied General Mitchell with jet fuel.

In January 2011, he learned that corrosion-prevention equipment on the pipeline wasn’t functioning properly but never took any action to correct the problems and didn’t conduct required bi-monthly monitoring. After he learned federal auditors were going to review the pipeline’s performance that December he entered false readings for the year into Shell’s computer system days before the audit took place, according to the documents.

Airport officials in January 2012 began receiving complaints from residents about the odor of jet fuel in the sewers and around a nearby creek. Fuel began showing up in soil around the airport and the creek, melted asphalt at the airport and filled underground drainage pipes and culverts.

Later that month, Shell reported that about 9,000 gallons of jet fuel had spilled through a hole in the pipeline. Cleanup costs totaled about $19.3 million, the documents said.

Jones, now 44, pleaded guilty in federal court this past November to failing to conduct an annual survey of a pipeline in violation of the federal Pipeline Safety Act and making false statements to the U.S. government by falsifying his readings.

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