FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 14, 2002
TDD (202) 514-1888
CHEMICAL PLANT MANAGERS SENTENCED
FOR CLEAN AIR ACT VIOLATIONS
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two former managers of the Huntsman Chemical Plant in Port Arthur, Texas received prison sentences today for violating regulations under the Clean Air Act, the Justice Department announced today. Jeffrey L. Jackson, the former plant manager for the Huntsman Chemical Plant in Port Arthur, was sentenced to 36 months in prison and fined $50,000. Michael Peters, the former environmental manager for the Huntsman facilities, also was sentenced to 36 months in prison and a fine of $50,000. Jackson and Peters each faced 25 years in prison and a fine of $1.25 million.
"It is absolutely appropriate that those who break our nation's environmental laws should be dealt the punishment that comes as a consequence - in this case, it's prison time," Tom Sansonetti, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.
Jackson and Peters were each convicted on December 9, 1999, by a jury in Beaumont of three counts of operating a wastewater tank which discharged a dangerous level of benzene, a toxic chemical, in violation of the National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPS) at the Huntsman Chemical Plant between December 1994 and December 1996; one count of conspiracy to withhold information from the Texas National Resource Conservation Commission and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); and one count of making a false statement to the EPA.
Testimony at the trial showed that Jackson and Peters operated an above-ground storage tank containing benzene-contaminated wastewater which had damaged seals, resulting in unauthorized emissions of benzene and other chemicals. The tank had been damaged when it was struck by lightning in 1995, causing a fire which damaged 20 percent of its seals.
The benzene NESHAPS require that a tank with damaged seals be repaired or emptied within 45 days of discovery to control emissions of benzene, but the evidence at trial showed that Jackson and Peters continued to operate the tank beyond the 45 day period, and concealed the use and the emissions from the TNRCC. In addition, Jackson and Peters were found guilty of providing to the EPA a "Notification of Continuous Release," which contained false information about the benzene releases.
The case was investigated by members of the Texas Environmental Enforcement Task
Force. Agencies involved in this case include: the Special Investigations Unit of the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division (Dallas), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Beaumont).