LAKE CHARLES — A Houston corporation that owns a Lake Charles refinery was charged with two felony violations of the Clean Air Act and obstruction of justice in a three-count bill of information filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The bill of information filed in Lafayette federal court charges that Pelican Refining Co. LLC, headquartered in Houston, knowingly violated its permit issued under the Clean Air Act to operate the Pelican Refinery in Lake Charles
Pelican Refining is also accused of obstruction of justice by filing a false report with the state Department of Environmental Quality.
Between Aug. 1, 2005, and March 1, 2007, the company allegedly operated without following permit requirements to properly prevent the escape of pollutants into the environment, according to the bill of information.
The federal investigation began after a March 2006 inspection by DEQ and the Environmental Protection Agency found violations of the facility’s operating conditions, including the releases of hydrogen sulfide — a highly toxic and flammable gas, the storage of crude oil in a tank that needed repairs, and the use of plastic children’s swimming pools to contain petroleum leaks, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release.
Wednesday’s announcement follows Pelican Vice President Bryon Hamilton’s July 6 guilty plea to negligent endangerment charges under the Clean Air Act. Hamilton faces up to one year in prison and a maximum $200,000 fine for each of the two Clean Air counts.
If convicted, Pelican Refining could face more than $500,000 in fines per count.
Some of the alleged violations include:
Operating the refinery without assuring that a broken crude oil storage tank was properly repaired before it was put back into service, and operating without the use of caustic to treat and remove non-condensable toxic.
The government’s investigation of the Pelican Refinery Company is ongoing.
The case is being prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley, and Richard A. Udell and Christopher Hale, trial attorneys with the Department of Justice Environmental Crimes Section.