WEPCO to pay $16MM settlement in coal-fired Oak Creek power plant explosion suit

By Dorothy Davis

Habush, Habush & Rottier SC Attorney Timothy Trecek who represented eight victims in the Wisconsin Electric Power Company (WEPCO) coal dust explosion at its We Energies coal-fired power plant in Oak Creek, WI, announced a $16 million settlement has been reached in the suit.

The fire suppression equipment in the WEPCO power plant’s silo was not working, which prompted the hiring of eight ThyssenKrupp Safway workers by United States Fire Protection, Inc. to construct scaffolding inside the plant’s coal dust hopper; so repairs could begin. Repairs and maintenance were part of an ongoing expansion project being conducted at the site.

According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, coal dust, which is of a highly combustible nature, must be removed from containment units prior to entry by workers. It has been established that this critical safety measure was not properly implemented, causing airborne coal dust to ignite when coming in contact with a light being utilized during the scaffolding job, resulting in an explosion and subsequent fire on Feb. 3, 2009.

All eight Safway workers suffered varying degrees of injuries as a result of the incident, leading to their hiring of Trecek for legal representation in the lawsuit. The suit named WEPCO, United States Fire Protection Inc. and several insurance companies and re-insurers as defendants.

Two years after the tragic accident, Trecek released a statement outlining that all involved partied had reached a settlement agreement of $16 million.

Bechtel Corporation completed the construction of the WEPCO coal-fired power plant expansion project which broke ground in 2005 and involved the construction of two 615MW coal-fired generating units. Unit 1 was turned over on February 2, 2010; Unit 2 was turned over January 12, 2011.

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