Patton Boggs Insights - December 2012: Enforcement: Refineries Hit With Big Penalties After Incidents

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A one-two punch by government regulators has resulted in fines totaling more than a half million dollars against Sinclair Wyoming Refinery Co.’s refinery. Federal and state OSHA authorities slapped the company with $215,000 in total fines after a flash fire on May 8, 2012 at the operation in Sinclair injured four workers.

But the biggest fines came from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It hit the refinery with a $378,000 penalty for the company’s alleged failure to meet all the terms of a 2008 consent decree affecting the company’s two refineries in Wyoming and another in Oklahoma. EPA’s fine followed an out-of-court settlement the company reached with the agency in August in which the Utah-based refiner agreed to pay more than $3.8 million in fines related to the lack of adequate pollution controls. Sinclair also agreed to spend $10.5 million in pollution controls at its Sinclair and Casper plants.

In New Mexico, Navajo Refining of Artesia has agreed to pay $400,000 as part of a settlement with the state’s OSHA agency over alleged safety violations after an explosion left two dead and two injured. The blast in March 2010 occurred when a contract welder working on top of a storage tank ignited vapors from flammable liquids inside the tank.