This month, the Chevron Corporation paid approximately $940,000 in fines for a fatal explosion that took place at a Pennsylvania gas well last year. Officials reported that this marks the state’s largest fine for a single incident.
Last February, Chevron contractor employee Ian McKee died in the explosion after natural gas escaped from a new well in southwestern Pennsylvania. McKee had originally gone out to the well to investigate a hissing sound right before the explosion.
Investigators ultimately found an improperly tightened bolt to be the culprit behind the accident, and said that Chevron supervisors at the site did not properly oversee the contractors. Specifically, there should have been stronger guidelines provided for exactly how to tighten the bolt. It also took Chevron close to two weeks to extinguish the fire, and the company did not properly communicate with state authorities regarding the incident.
In sum, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) found that Chevron’s management of the well seriously violated state standards. In addition to the $1 million fine, McKee’s family was paid $5 million in the wrongful death lawsuit.
The state DEP found that the company violated laws against hazardous venting of gas and not properly controlling and containing production fluids. These requirements are enumerated in the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act, which was established to ensure that the health and safety of Pennsylvania citizens was not compromised for the purposes of natural gas extraction. Under the law, it is Chevron’s duty to use efforts and endeavors effectively to prevent explosions and fires at the site. Chevron and other companies must also construct and operate wells to ensure that well integrity is maintained and that the health, safety, environment, and property are protected.
There have been reports of the state DEP being overwhelmed by the demands placed on it, without enough inspectors to keep up with all of the many wells in the state. Well sites are inherently dangerous, and it is the company’s duty not to place employees and contractors in harm’s way. This places citizen’s lives in danger when they work with natural gas everyday.
Pursuant to the Consent Assessment of Civil Penalty, Chevron also agreed to pay $5 million to settle a wrongful death suit with McKee’s family. The Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Act allows families’ like McKee’s to receive compensation for the wrongful death of their family member due to the negligent actions of (in this instance) a company.
Solnick & Associates
The Pennsylvania personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at Solnick & Associates help survivors and family members of people killed in industrial accidents recover wrongful death benefits. Our firm focuses on representing victims of negligence and we help our clients receive compensation for their personal injuries and any employment-related compensation. Contact our Jenkintown attorneys today for a consultation.