Oilfield company denies assault of workers by toxic release
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A Texas-based oilfield service company denies that it assaulted an Alaska construction crew by exposing workers to toxic chemical releases.
Houston-based Baker Hughes on Thursday issued a statement saying it will fight state assault charges from an incident that occurred at a Kenai, Alaska, chemical plant five years ago.
“Baker Hughes is committed to safety, and operates its oil field services facility in Kenai in compliance with the law,” the company said in a statement. “We vigorously deny the claims made against us, and will exercise our right to present evidence that the allegations are without merit.”
A state grand jury in Anchorage on Tuesday indicted Baker Hughes oilfield service companies and a Baker Hughes manager on 25 counts, including 10 assault counts, the Anchorage Daily News reported .
Five workers with a construction crew said they were injured in a chemical release in 2014.
The companies if convicted face up to $2.5 million in fines for the most serious charges, according to the Alaska Department of Law.
A Baker Hughes manager, John Clyde Willis, also was indicted and if convicted, faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.
His Anchorage-based lawyer, Clint Campion, released a statement Thursday: “Clyde Willis adamantly denies that he has committed any crimes or harmed anyone. He has worked in the oil field services industry for 40 years and has worked in Alaska for the past 13 years. Mr. Willis has no prior criminal record. He does not believe there is evidence to support the charges.”
The workers said they were repeatedly exposed to toxic chemical releases from an existing chemical transfer facility as they constructed a new chemical transfer facility.
The indictment claims that Baker Hughes, Baker Petrolite, Baker Hughes Oilfield Services, and Willis, “failed to provide safety information regarding the chemicals used on site and failed to respond to repeated complaints by workers about the chemical exposures until May 8, 2014, when several workers were sent to the hospital because of a large exposure event.”
The five workers have experienced prolonged serious physical injury including ataxia (a degenerative disease of the nervous system), memory loss, migraines, vertigo, respiratory issues, and tremors, the Department of Law said in its statement.
The state sued the Baker Hughes companies and Willis in May in state court in Kenai.