March 7 (UPI) — ExxonMobil reached a $600,000 settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency over a Texas refinery fire in 2013.
The oil corporation agreed to pay a $616,000 civil penalty to resolve federal claims that it violated the Clean Air Act, which requires measures to prevent accidental releases of extremely hazardous substances, in the fire at the Beaumont, Texas, refinery after the fire that killed two people and injured 12 more.
ExxonMobil also agreed to purchase a hazardous materials Incident Command Vehicle, valued at $730,000, for the Beaumont Fire & Rescue Service and hire an independent third-party auditor to conduct a compliance audit of its procedures for opening process equipment at 10 different process units at the refinery.
“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,” said Jeffrey Bossert Clark, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
The fire occurred after workers used a torch to remove bolts from the top of a device called a heat exchanger and ignited the hydrocarbons it released.
“We rely on companies to carefully follow environmental regulations, which are designed — above all — to protect human health,” EPA Regional Administrator Anne Idsal said. “As the incident at ExxonMobil’s facility shows, failing to comply with these rules can have devastating consequences.”