LAFAYETTE — Pelican Refining Company pleaded guilty Wednesday to criminal violations of the U.S. Clean Air Act and obstruction of justice in connection with operations at its Lake Charles refinery.

The plea agreement calls for the Houston-based company to pay $12 million in penalties, according to a news release from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The refining company was accused of a litany of violations related to broken or poorly functioning pollution-control equipment.

The problems included a broken pilot light on a flare tower used to burn off toxic gases, and employees would take turns trying to reignite the flame by shooting a flare gun at the tower, according to information from EPA.

The obstruction of justice charge was related to company employees knowingly filing false reports with the state Department of Environmental Quality, according to court records.

The vice president of Pelican Refinery, Byron Hamilton, pleaded guilty in July to criminal Clean Air Act charges related to the investigation of poor pollution control at the refinery.

He faces up to a year in prison and up to $400,000 in fines when sentenced.

EPA officials said the $12 million fine against Pelican Refining would be the largest criminal penalty ever given in Louisiana under the Clean Air Act if the judge sentences the company in line with the plea agreement.

The company would also be barred from continuing to operate the refinery until it implements a plan to comply with environmental regulations and submits to oversight by a court-appointed monitor, according to EPA.