ExxonMobil has agreed to pay a $616,000 civil penalty over the 2013 fire at its Beaumont refinery that killed two workers and injured ten others. But it also do much more to meet approval from government regulators.
The agreement was announced this week by the Justice Department. Under the deal, ExxonMobil will also hire an independent third party auditor to do a compliance audit of the company’s procedures for opening process equipment at ten different units at the refinery. The company will also be forced to perform a supplemental environmental project under EPA review to purchase a hazardous materials Incident Command Vehicle (ICV) valued at $730,000 for the Beaumont Fire and Rescue Service.
The agreement was reached at the DOJ and the EPA filed a complaint alleging the company violated the Clean Air Act.
The April 17, 2013, fire at the refinery occurred when workers used a torch to remove bolts from the top, or “head,” of a device called a heat exchanger. The torch ignited hydrocarbons released from the head. EPA’s inspection following the incident disclosed violations of Section 112(r) and of the regulations known as the Chemical Accident Prevention provisions.
“The deaths and injuries resulting from the 2013 fire at ExxonMobil’s Beaumont refinery are a terrible tragedy,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark for the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Today’s settlement sends a clear message to companies handling hazardous substances in their operations that they must take the necessary steps to protect their workers under the environmental laws or face the consequences of vigorous enforcement. Additionally, the relief the United States has secured will aid in protecting a vulnerable surrounding community from future tragic episodes like this one.”
The ICV will contain equipment specifically tailored to enhance BFRS’s hazardous-material incident response capabilities, including its 24-hour emergency response services from 12 fire stations. From these stations, BFRS provides fire, hazardous materials, disaster, technical rescue, and first responder emergency medical services over 90 square miles containing numerous petroleum and/or chemical facilities. The ICV will enhance BFRS’s capability to communicate and coordinate emergency response activities in the event of a fire, explosion or similar major incident.