After six workers were killed in a massive gas explosion at the Kleen Energy plant in Middletown four years ago, federal investigators tallied hundreds of violations at the site and issued $16.6 million in penalties against more than a dozen companies — the third-largest workplace-safety fine in the nation’s history.
"The millions of dollars in fines levied pale in comparison to the value of the six lives lost and numerous other lives disrupted," U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said at the time. "However, the fines and penalties reflect the gravity and severity of the deadly conditions created by the companies managing the work at the site."
But in the years since the blast, the federal government agreed to deals that will wipe out as much as 88 percent of the fines levied against the companies it determined were responsible for the explosion, a Courant review of documents related to the case has revealed.
Government regulators also rejected calls for an outright ban on the use of flammable gas to clean out pipes — called “gas blows” — dismissing a recommendation from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board and creating a scenario described by the board’s lead Kleen Energy investigator as a “disaster waiting to happen.”
4 Years After Deadly Plant Explosion: Ban On Gas Blows Rejected, Fines Slashed