Summary of Criminal Prosecutions
FISCAL YEAR: 2012
1. PRINCIPAL DEFENDANT: Pelican Refining Company, LLC
W.D. Louisiana 2:11-CR-00227
2. DEFENDANT: Byron Alford Hamilton
W.D. Louisiana 2:11-CR-00130
3. DEFENDANT: Michael LeBleu
W.D. Louisiana 2:11-CR-00266
Pelican has admitted to the following:
Pelican, headquartered in Houston and operating a refinery in Lake Charles, Louisiana, violated numerous aspects of its permit to operate. The violations were discovered during a March 2006 inspection by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which identified numerous unsafe operating conditions. Pelican submitted materially false deviation reports to LDEQ, the agency that administers the federal Clean Air Act in Louisiana.
- Pelican had no company budget, no environmental department and no environmental manager;
- In order to comply with a permit issued under the Clean Air Act, the refinery was required to use certain key pollution prevention equipment, but that equipment was either not functioning, poorly maintained, improperly installed, improperly placed into service and/or improperly calibrated;
- It was a routine practice for over a year to use an emergency flare gun to re-light the flare tower at the refinery which was designed to burn off toxic gasses and provide for the safe combustion of potentially explosive chemicals; because the pilot light was not functioning properly, employees would take turns trying to shoot the flare gun to relight the explosive gasses;
- Sour crude oil was stored in a tank that was not properly placed into service and remained in the tank after the roof sank;
- A caustic scrubber designed to remove hydrogen sulfide from emissions was bypassed; and
- A continuous emission monitoring system (CEMS) designed to measure the hydrogen sulfide levels in refinery emissions was not working properly.
Byron Hamilton, the Pelican vice-president who oversaw operations at the Lake Charles refinery since 2005 from an office in Houston pleaded guilty on July 6, 2011, to negligently placing persons in imminent danger of death and serious bodily injury as a result of negligent releases at the refinery. Hamilton faces up to one year in prison and a $200,000 fine for each of the two Clean Air Act counts.
June 10, 2011
CITATION: 18 U.S.C. 1519, 42 U.S.C. 7413(c)(4), 42 U.S.C. 7661(a)
September 7, 2011
October 12, 2011
Pelican pled guilty to all charges.
October 17, 2011
December 15, 2011
April 4, 2012
- Clean Air Act (CAA)
- Title 18 U.S. Criminal Code (TITLE 18)