The Justice Department has formally closed the criminal investigation arising from the April 2010 explosion at the Tesoro March Point refinery that resulted in the deaths of seven Tesoro employees.
Shortly after the explosion, federal criminal investigators and prosecutors began an extensive investigation to determine whether federal criminal environmental and worker safety laws and regulations had been violated. The decision to close the case with no criminal charges was shared with the survivors of the victims this morning.
“This tragedy demanded careful and thorough investigation. I am satisfied that the investigators and the experienced environmental attorneys in my office evaluated all the evidence and determined it does not reach the exacting bar for criminal prosecution,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. “I believe this investigation, as well as those conducted by other agencies, have prompted changes in how the industry conducts itself. We will continue to work with the Chemical Safety Board to ensure a more expedited investigative process to ensure the public is served, the industry is held accountable and justice is done.”
The four year investigation included interviewing past and present employees, reviewing thousands of documents, and consulting with industry experts. In addition, investigators and prosecutors reviewed investigative reports prepared by other investigative authorities, including the United States Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board and the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. Based on information developed through these investigative efforts, the Justice Department concluded there is insufficient evidence to support bringing criminal charges for violating federal environmental and worker safety laws and regulations.
To the extent the investigation uncovered practices or procedures that risked worker safety or the environment, that information was communicated to the company so necessary improvements could be implemented.
In 2010, Labor and Industries fined Tesoro $2.38 million, citing the company for 44 workplace violations, including willful disregard of safety regulations and failing to maintain 40-year-old equipment. Tesoro appealed the fine.
The CSB, meanwhile, concluded that the refinery didn't use safe equipment, had poor inspection procedures and allowed employees to work in unnecessarily dangerous situations.