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Texas Company and Two Individuals Indicted for Environmental Crimes

WASHINGTON—Two individuals including a company executive have been indicted for their roles in a conspiracy to illegally transport and dispose of hazardous waste, the Justice Department announced.

John Kessel, the president and owner of Texas Oil and Gathering, Inc., and Edgar Pettijohn, the company’s operations manager, were arrested and charged today with illegally disposing of hazardous waste at facilities only approved to take oil and gas production waste. Texas Oil and Gathering, Inc., a licensed hazardous waste transporter and used oil handler, was also named in the indictment.

Kessel and Pettijohn were arraigned today in U.S. District Court in Houston, Texas. They are charged with 14 felony counts including conspiracy, violating the Safe Drinking Water Act and violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

The Underground Injection Control provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act prohibits the unauthorized use of injection wells to prevent contamination of drinking water sources. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines five classes of injections wells according to the type of fluid they inject. Class II injection wells reinsert fluids associated with oil and natural gas production back into the ground. Most of the injected fluid is saltwater or brine that is produced when oil and gas are extracted from the earth.  It is illegal to dispose of anything other than these fluids through Class II injection wells during this process.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act regulates storage, transportation and disposal of hazardous wastes.

Kessel and Pettijohn allegedly conspired to purchase hazardous waste from multiple generator facilities and process it at their Texas Oil and Gathering facility. The pair then sold portions as a fuel additive, and directed their employees to transport the remaining hazardous waste, disguised with documents indicating the waste was from an oil production well, to “Disposal Facility A,” which was not permitted by the EPA to accept, store or dispose of hazardous material.

Once at Disposal Facility A, the hazardous waste was disposed into Class II injection wells in violation of the law. In furtherance of the conspiracy, Kessel and Pettijohn falsified bills of lading and trip tickets which misrepresented the origin and type of waste they were transporting.

If convicted, Kessel and Pettijohn each face 5 years in prison, and the individuals and the company each face substantial fines.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

The investigation was conducted by the EPA—Criminal Investigation Division, the Texas Environmental Task Force, the Houston Police Department, and the Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General. The prosecution is being handled by the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section.