March 13, 2019 — ExxonMobil Corp. will pay a $616,000 penalty for an oil refinery fire that occurred in Beaumont, Texas, in 2013, leaving 2 people dead and 10 other victims injured.
The settlement will resolve claims filed by the federal government in relation to violations of the Clean Air Act.
The explosion occurred when workers were removing bolts from a heat exchanger device, which caused the release of flammable hydrocarbons.
The cutting torch ignited the substance and caused the deadly explosion, according to a lawsuit filed by the government and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas.
Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark called the fire a “terrible tragedy,” and said:
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.”
The lawsuit stated that the heat exchanger may not have been properly cleared of flammable substances before workers removing the bolts with the cutting torch.
There were also non-essential personnel near the hazardous work.
Prosecutors believe the risk of fire associated with opening a heat exchanger could have been prevented or minimized if proper procedures had been followed.
The lawsuit is In RE: U.S. v. ExxonMobil Oil Corp. — Case No. 1:19-cv-00121 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Beaumont Division.
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