In April of 2010, an explosion at the Tesoro Corp. refinery in Anacortes, Washington killed seven workers and injured many more. After a four year investigation into the cause of the explosion, the U.S. Justice Department announced late last week that no criminal charges would be filed.
During the investigation, prosecutors interviewed current and former workers at the refinery, reviewed thousands of internal documents and consulted with industry experts, including investigators from the Chemical Safety Board, but they determined that there was not enough evidence that environmental and worker safety laws had been violated to meet the high standards of criminal prosecution.
While criminal prosecution requires guilt to be “beyond the shadow of a doubt,” civil law does not have as strict of a standard for liability. Families of six of the victims of the tragedy filed suit in civil court and settled their case for $39 million.
The Tesoro Corp refinery explosion occurred just weeks before the infamous BP Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 workers and caused the largest environmental disaster in United States history. In late 2012, BP plead guilty to 14 criminal charges and agreed to pay a $4 billion fine for the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and ensuing oil spill. Other companies involved in the rig explosion such as Halliburton and Transocean also reached plea agreements with the Department of Justice. However, Halliburton escaped any criminal prosecution for its role in the disaster and plead guilty only to destroying evidence prior to and during the investigation.