E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Co., known as EIDP, was sentenced for criminal negligence and ordered to pay $16 million in fines and payments in connection with a 2014 facility explosion that killed four employees, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas announced last month.
A former employee at the chemical manufacturer’s La Porte, Texas, plant was also sentenced for negligence.
The sentencing concludes the fallout from a November 2014 incident at a DuPont insecticide production facility, when 24,000 pounds of toxic, flammable gas were released into the air.
Four employees — operators Robert Tisnado, 39; Gilbert Tisnado, 48; Crystle Wise, 53; and shift supervisor Wade Baker, 60 — died from asphyxia and acute exposure to the gas methyl mercaptan.
E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. and former unit operations leader Kenneth Sandel were both indicted and charged in 2021 for "knowingly violating requirements of federal safety regulations and negligently releasing an extremely hazardous substance,” according to a Southern District of Texas press release.
DuPont also admitted it violated the Clean Air Act by putting employees in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury through exposure to deadly gas.
“Four employees are dead because of DuPont’s criminal negligence,” U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani said in a statement. “The sentence imposed today sends a clear message of my office’s dedication to holding managers at industrial facilities, and the corporations that own and operate those facilities, accountable for violations of federal criminal laws; laws meant to protect the safety of workers and nearby communities.”
The chemical corporation must pay a $12 million penalty and a $4 million community service payment to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to address the environmental harm its toxins caused to the area.
In addition, DuPont will serve two years of probation, during which time the company must give the U.S. Probation Office full access to its operating locations. Sandel was ordered to serve one year of probation.
The charges against DuPont and Sandel are part of the Environmental Protection Agency's “Reducing Risks of Accidental Releases at Industrial and Chemical Facilities” initiative, which focuses on decreasing accidents at such sites.
"This case demonstrates the importance of holding chemical facilities accountable for implementing chemical safety requirements that are designed to protect workers and neighboring communities," Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in a statement.
EIDP, a subsidiary of agricultural chemical company Corteva, told Manufacturing Dive in an email that it fully cooperated with all government investigations and has now resolved all matters with federal, state and local agencies as well as private parties related to the 2014 explosion.
Corteva changed the name of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, DuPont’s former formal company title, to EIDP in January 2023 as part of its separation from DowDuPont in 2019.
DuPont closed the La Porte facility in November 2014 after the explosion. It was permanently closed in 2016, according to an SEC filing, and was later demolished.
In total, DuPont has now paid $19.26 million, in penalties, payments and civil settlements related to the explosion. In addition to this year’s penalties, the company paid a $3.1 million in a civil settlement in 2018 for violating the EPA's chemical accident prevention program.