Science & Environment

Shell pays $191K fine for 2015 Puget Sound refinery incident

By Staff (AP)
MOUNT VERNON, Wash. Feb. 11, 2021 8:35 p.m.

Shell Oil Products U.S. has paid a $191,000 fine for the release of pollutants from its Shell Puget Sound Refinery north of Seattle in Skagit County.

The fine comes via a legal settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to resolve federal Clean Air Act violations, The Skagit Valley Herald reported.


During refinery maintenance on Feb. 20, 2015, several operating procedures were violated, resulting in the release of about 700 pounds of pollutants. Hydrogen sulfide, dimethyl sulfide, mercaptans, pyrophoric iron and benzene were released over a period of more than three hours.


The emissions sickened many in surrounding areas, including on the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community reservation to the south, and some sought medical attention.

The settlement agreement, filed in late 2020, says more than 550 people on the reservation and in surrounding areas were impacted by the emissions with some reporting symptoms from coughing to nausea, headaches, chest and lung pains.

“The health of the Swinomish Tribal Community is my top priority, and that starts with ensuring we all have clean air to breathe,” Swinomish Tribal Chairman Steve Edwards said in a news release welcoming the fine. “We are glad to see the EPA take action to hold Shell Oil accountable for its violations of air pollution laws.”

Shell has also corrected issues with its risk management plan and implementation to prevent, detect and minimize accidental air emissions, according to a Wednesday EPA news release.

With previous fines paid to the Northwest Clean Air Agency and the Washington Safety and Health Agency, Shell has now paid about $600,000 for the incident.

A more recent emissions incident, on Sept. 29, 2020, remains under investigation by the Northwest Clean Air Agency.


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