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OSHA Probes into Enterprise's Texas Operations Once Again

While it is no surprise to Texans, who are used to seeing plant after plant, with towering industrial stacks, along the coast, it may surprise the rest of America to know that the Texas Gulf Coast refines almost one-third of the nation's oil. Given the number of oil and gas plants and refineries in the gulf area, fires, explosions and industrial incidents are not uncommon.

Unfortunately, the most recent fire resulted in one worker losing his life. State and federal officials have launched the investigation into last week's fire at Enterprise Products' natural gas plant in Mont Belvieu, Texas.

In addition to an investigation by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), two state agencies are also looking into the matter. The state agencies are looking closely at the safety of the plant's pipeline and whether it violated air emissions standards. The company is not sure yet what caused the plant fire, but operations have resumed, said a spokesman for Enterprise.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Enterprise Products has a history of serious violations and since 2004 has paid almost $30,000 in fines. Enterprise's trouble started in 2004, when OSHA conducted a dozen investigations into various Enterprise plants and refineries across Texas. The company paid $7,600 in penalties for a number of serious violations.

In 2005, one of Enterprise's facilities had a fatal incident stemming from a flash fire that burned and killed a worker replacing a valve. At that time, OSHA cited the company for three violations and fined them $18,900. Enterprise ultimately settled with OSHA, paying only $12,000.

In 2008 and 2009, OSHA again investigated Enterprise's Texas facilities and found 10 violations, eight of them serious. Enterprise settled by paying $7,900 in fines.

Resource: The Houston Chronicle, "Feds investigate Texas plant fire that killed 1," 2/10/11

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