Federal criminal charges filed in deadly pipeline explosion in Bellingham, Washington

The EPA has indicted several suspects on federal criminal charges stemming from a pipeline explosion in Bellingham, Washington, that resulted in three deaths.

Sept. 27, 2001 — The Olympic Pipeline Company (OPL); the Equilon Pipeline Corporation (EPC), a Shell and Texaco joint venture; Frank Hopf, an EPC official who served as the Vice-President of OPL; Ron Brestson, a control room supervisor at OPL and Kevin Dyvig, a control room operator at OPL were each indicted on various federal charges on Sept. 13 for their alleged roles in a gasoline pipeline explosion that caused three fatalities.

The indictment included multiple federal charges, including alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and the Federal Pipeline Safety Act. The 1999 pipeline rupture occurred in Whatcom Park in Bellingham, Washington, and released approximately 236,000 gallons of gasoline into a creek.

The gasoline ignited and caused the burning deaths of two 10 year-old boys and also caused a swath of environmental destruction along Whatcom and Hanah Creeks which feed into Puget Sound.

In addition, a man who was fishing was overcome by gasoline fumes and drowned. The restart of the pipeline caused an additional 79,464 gallons of gasoline to be discharged. If convicted of all charges, the companies could be fined up to $3.5 million dollars as well as additional monetary charges. Hopf could face up to six years in prison, Brentson could face up to sixteen years in prison, and Dyvig could serve up to one year in prison.

The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General with the assistance of EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center. It is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Seattle. An indictment is merely an accusation, and all defendants are presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty in a court of law.

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