An oil industry services company has been ordered to pay $9.5 million in penalties for Gulf of Mexico safety violations and pollution from an offshore platform fire that took the lives of three workers in 2012.
The penalties are following plea arguments against Houston-based Wood Group PSN were announced Thursday by the U.S Justice Department in Washington and U.S attorneys in New Orleans and Lafayette, Louisiana, where civil criminal cases have been taking place.
Wood Group must pay $7 million for falsely reporting that safety inspections were performed on Gulf of Mexico facilitates over several years. An additional $1.8 million in penalties are for releasing oil into the gulf during the November 2012 explosion that killed three workers on a platform which was owned by Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations LLC.
Wood Group will pay $700,000 for community service projects as well.
“We deeply regret these incidents occurred and we cooperated fully with the government and relevant regulatory bodies throughout both investigations,” Wood Group said in an emailed statement.
A report released in 2013 by federal regulators identifies a string of faults which caused the blast that led to the death of workers Elroy Corporal, Jerome Malagapo and Avelino Tajonera.
Black Elk Energy’s platform was about 17 miles (27 kilometers) from Grand Isle, Louisiana, in about 52 feet (15 meters) of water. It had been “shut in” and wasn’t producing oil at the time of the explosion. Workers were on the platform preparing to resume production. On the morning of Nov. 16, 2012, a worker ignited oil vapors while welding pipe, triggering a chain reaction that caused oil tanks to explode.
In 2015, a grand jury indicted Black Elk, Wood Group, Grand Isle Shipyards and others who worked on the platform on a variety of charges. Despite a judge throwing out some of the more serious charges last April, prosecuters’ appeals of that decision are pending.
Black Elk and Grand Isle Shipyards both remain charged with manslaughter; Black Elk also faces charges involving regulatory violations of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.
Article written by HEI contributor Lydia Ezeakor.