Ashland Inc. sentenced for refinery fire in Minnesota

Ashland Inc., of Covington, Ky., sentenced on Dec. 23 to pay $9.1 million in fines and restitution, was convicted on negligent endangerment charges under the Clean Air Act (CAA) and for submitting a false certification to environmental regulators.

Jan 20th, 2003


Jan. 20, 2003 -- Ashland Inc., of Covington, Ky., sentenced on Dec. 23 to pay $9.1 million in fines and restitution, was convicted on negligent endangerment charges under the Clean Air Act (CAA) and for submitting a false certification to environmental regulators.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota in Minneapolis also ordered Ashland to pay an estimated $4 million for upgrades to sewers, junction boxes and drains at its St. Paul Park Refinery.

In its previous plea agreement, the defendant agreed to a deferred prosecution for a violation of the New Source Performance Standards provisions of the CAA. The violations led to an explosion and fire on May 1997 at the St. Paul Park Refinery where one man was severely injured and five others were hurt.

The resultant accident was due to Ashland's failure to properly seal manhole sewer covers used to dispose of flammable hydrocarbons. Some hydrocarbons leaked, became airborne and reached an ignition source.

The initial fire was put out, but a second leak of hydrocarbons from a manhole cover ignited and injured members of an emergency response team. The false certification violation occurred after the fire when Ashland told the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in July 1997 that its sewer system was in compliance with the CAA and Ashland failed to reveal that a manhole cover had been unsealed and a fire had resulted.

As part of the sentence, Ashland will pay $3.5 million to the severely injured man and pay medical coverage for him and his family for the rest of their lives. The other five injured workers will receive $10,000 each. In addition, Ashland will pay a $1.5 million criminal fine, pay $50,000 in restitution to each of several local fire departments and take out full-page notices in two major Twin Cities newspapers concerning this incident and its resolution.

Ashland will also pay $3.9 million to the National Park Foundation for environmental projects in the Minneapolis area. The case was investigated by EPA's Criminal Investigation Division and the FBI with the assistance of EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center. It was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Minneapolis and the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.


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