Chevron pays record fine in Pennsylvania blast, regulator says

By David DeKok

By David DeKok

HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) – Oil and natural gas producer Chevron Corp paid a $939,553 fine for a fatal 2014 explosion at one its Pennsylvania gas wells that state officials on Tuesday said may be the largest amount paid for a single incident.

The fine reflected the state Department of Environmental Protection’s assessment that the No. 2 U.S. oil company’s management of the well failed to meet state standards, said agency spokesman John Poister.

“There was just a feeling that Chevron needed to establish more direct control over their properties,” he said.

Ian McKee, 27, an employee of Cameron International Corp, a Chevron contractor, was burned to death on Feb. 11, 2014, when natural gas escaping from the new Lanco 7H well in Greene County southwest of Pittsburgh exploded.

McKee had gone to investigate a hissing sound at the well just before the explosion.

Chevron brought in specialty firefighters from Texas, but the Lanco 7H well was not extinguished until Feb. 23 and the adjoining Lanco 6H well not until two days later.

Pennsylvania investigators blamed an improperly tightened bolt and said guidelines for how the bolt should have been tightened were hazy. They said Chevron supervisors at the well site were preoccupied with paperwork and did not properly oversee the work done by Cameron International contractors.

Poister said Chevron has taken responsibility for what happened and has tightened its well site management.

Chevron spokesman Cameron Van Ast said the company “deeply regrets” the disaster, accepted the fine and was determined to prevent something similar from happening again.

The energy company paid a reported $5 million to McKee’s family to settle their wrongful death lawsuit. McKee’s girlfriend gave birth to his only child after he died.

Poister said the energy company Range Resources paid a larger fine, $4.5 million, in 2014 for a series of violations but that the $939,553 paid by Chevron is believed to be the largest ever imposed for a single event.

(Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Trott)

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