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More Legal Woes for Caribbean Petroleum

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Caribbean Petroleum Corp. faces a third lawsuit regarding the October 23 oil depot explosion in Puerto Rico.   Attorneys representing plaintiffs in this latest lawsuit are requesting that it be consolidated with the two lawsuits filed earlier into a single case.

According to the Associated Press, this new lawsuit involves 1,000 new plaintiffs and 23 new defendants.  It is seeking at least  $5 million to reimburse people for damage to their homes and other losses. It accuses Caribbean Petroleum of not training employees properly and failing to ensure that equipment was working correctly, the Associated Press said. 

The Caribbean Petroleum Corp. explosion occurred the company’s gasoline warehouse and distribution center in Catano, just outside of San Juan. It produced a fire that burned for nearly three days.  More than 1,500 people were evacuated, and businesses were also forced to close.

In November, U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) said that a malfunctioning fuel monitoring system probably led to the massive blast.

The October explosion is only latest incident to raise questions about Caribbean Petroleum.  In 2000, a Caribbean Petroleum refinery was shut down as well as a tank farm where gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, and crude oil were stored. According an article recently published in The Miami Herald, over the last ten years, the company  has been cited for major environmental violations that have cost it a total of $1.3 million in penalties and fines. Since 1990, the National Response Center, an entity that reports oil, chemical, radiological, and biological spills, recorded at least 25 oil spills at Caribbean Petroleum facilities.  The same Herald report said that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had not inspected the Puerto Rico facility since 2000.

Despite its long record of environmental violations involving penalties and fines for leaking hazardous waste in the water, air and soil, Caribbean Petroleum has been allowed to run for nearly a decade without safety inspections or an emergency community disaster plan, in violation of federal law, the Herald said.

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