Louisiana oil refiner earns record $12 million fine

The U.S. levied the largest criminal fine in history on a Texas company operating an oil refinery in Louisiana, according to The Associated Press.

Houston-based Pelican Refining along with two of the company's top executives pled guilty to a variety of violations of the federal Clean Air Act at its Lake Charles refinery in October of this year. On Thursday, December 15, a federal judge issued a fine a criminal fine of $10 million in addition to $2 million in community service payments.

"This conviction sends a message to all those who threaten Louisiana's precious environment that if they ignore their duty to adhere to the environmental laws, they will be investigated, prosecuted, fined and sentenced accordingly," federal attorney Stephanie Finley said in a prepared statement, according to the AP.

KATC.com reports that the refining plant breached environmental regulations in a variety of ways ranging from the improper storage of oil to the year-long practice of relighting a flare tower for toxic gases with a flare gun after the tower's pilot light went out.

In addition to the fines, Pelican will be banned from operating its refinery until certain upgrades are completed. The breaches were initially discovered in an inspection in 2006.

Further information about U.S. oil refineries and their best practices can be found at PennEnergy's Research area.

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