A major fire at the Tesoro Corp oil refinery plant in Anacortes, Washington erupted early in the morning of April 2, killing four, and critically injuring three more. According to the report from Reuters, the fire started in the highly flammable naphtha unit, which was undergoing maintenance, at 12:30 a.m. PST. Naphtha is a liquid that boosts gasoline octane to make the premium grades of gasoline necessary to some of the higher-performance cars.
Four refinery workers were airlifted to Seattle's Harborview Medical Center, about 70 miles south of the refinery with severe burns. One of the women later died, and the other three are still in critical condition, a hospital spokeswoman told Reuters. As with the explosion of the Kleen Energy Plant in Middletown, Connecticut, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board will be conducting an investigation. The CSB is also investigating a fire at Tesoro's Salt Lake City refinery which occurred last October.
Reuters reports that the fire is likely to be an expensive event for Tesoro, not only in terms of damage, but in legal liability. Lester Brickman, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York told the news service he is sure at least some of the victims or their unions have sought legal counsel. "The ultimate liability depends on the number of people who had sufficient proximity to the fire to have viable claims," he said.
"Realistically, at this point, there is little Tesoro can do to minimize liability," Brickman said. "Naphtha is a very volatile substance, and if Tesoro were found to have been significantly negligent, that could magnify its liability."
Gasoline supply to the West Coast is not expected to be disrupted.
- Four dead in Tesoro Anacortes refinery fire (Reuters)
- Officials Begin Middletown Explosion Investigations (FindLaw's Injured)
- OSHA and Workplace Safety (FindLaw)
- Refinery Explosion Aftermath: OSHA Fines BP $87 Million (FindLaw's Injured)
- Employer Responsibilities under Workers' Comp (provided by Miller Cohen PLC)
- OSHA and Employee Workplace Rights (provided by Ellis Law, P.C.)