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Texas oil company to pay $12 million for clean air act violations

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Friday that Houston based Pelican Refining Company must pay a $12 million penalty for air pollution violations at its Lake Charles refinery in Louisiana. The sentence is the largest ever criminal fine in Louisiana for violations of the Clean Air Act.

“This corporation operated without even the most basic requirements of an environmental compliance plan and endangered the public and its own employees by implementing unsafe practices in violation of its permit and reporting requirements”, said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice.

In March of 2006 an inspection by EPA and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality found that Pelican operated without a budget, with no environmental department or manager, and that the company provided false information to the State of Louisiana and the State of Texas concerning laboratory testing of asphalt. The inspections also found that certain key pollution prevention equipment was not functioning, poorly maintained or improperly installed.

Pelican has admitted to knowingly violating its operating permit at the refinery in Lake Charles and its vice-president, Byron Hamilton, pleaded guilty in July to negligently placing persons in imminent danger of death and serious bodily injury. Hamilton faces up to one year in prison and a $200,000 fine for each of the two Clean Air Act counts. In October, Pelican’s former asphalt facilities manager, Mike LeBleu, pleaded guilty to a negligent endangerment charge.

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