A Houston, Texas, oil company with a refining operation in Lake Charles, Louisiana, has reportedly pleaded guilty to felony violations of the Clean Air Act (CAA) and to obstruction of justice and agreed to pay a $12-million criminal penalty. United States v. Pelican Refining Co., No. 11-227 (W.D. La. 10/12/11). In its guilty plea, the company admitted that it violated its operating permit and submitted materially false deviation reports to the Louisiana state environmental agency. The $12-million fine includes $2 million for air pollution monitoring and other environmental projects in the state.
The plea agreement would prohibit the company from conducting future refinery operations until it implements an environmental compliance plan that includes external auditing and oversight by a court-appointed monitor. The company’s vice president, who oversaw operations at the refinery, pleaded guilty July 6, 2011, to negligently placing individuals in imminent danger of death and serious bodily injury as a result of negligent pollution release at the refinery; he faces a sentence of up to one year in prison and a $200,000 fine for each of two CAA counts, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). See DOJ Press Release, October 12, 2011.