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Exxon Mobil agrees to penalties in 2013 fatal fire in Beaumont

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Staff Writer | Thursday March 7, 2019 5:16AM ET
Exxon Mobil
America   Exxon violated Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act

The Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a settlement with ExxonMobil Oil Corporation to resolve federal Clean Air Act claims arising from a 2013 fire at the company’s oil refinery in Beaumont, Texas that killed two employees and injured ten others.


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In a complaint filed with the settlement, the United States alleges that the company violated Section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act, which requires measures to prevent accidental releases of extremely hazardous substances that can have serious public health and environmental consequences.

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.

Under the consent decree, ExxonMobil will pay a $616,000 civil penalty, hire an independent third party auditor to conduct a compliance audit of ExxonMobil’s procedures for opening process equipment at ten different process units at the refinery, and perform a supplemental environmental project (SEP) under EPA’s SEP Policy to purchase a hazardous materials Incident Command Vehicle (ICV), valued at $730,000, for the Beaumont Fire & Rescue Service (BFRS).

The auditor will also evaluate the company’s procedures for conducting risk-based mechanical integrity inspections.

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.

 

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