The president of a second company charged in the aftermath of a 2012 oil plant explosion in Eastern Montana that injured workers is set to stand trial Monday.
Peter Margiotta, president of Custom Carbon Processing, is charged with conspiracy and two counts of violating the Clean Air Act. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison and $750,000 in fines.
Margiotta's former employee, Mark Hurst, has admitted reduced charges under a plea deal and will testify against him before being sentenced.
A second company, Woody’s Trucking, saw its president convicted on separate charges and was sentenced in 2018 to a year in prison. Woody’s Trucking shipped the natural gas condensate to the Custom Carbon Processing facility that resulted in the explosion.
The company’s waste oil recycling facility outside of Wibaux exploded on Dec. 29, 2012, burning three employees.
Among the 26 witnesses set to testify beginning Monday is the site supervisor who suffered burns in the explosion and later sued.
Injuries included up to third-degree degree burns, “central nervous system breakdown from inhalation of petroleum products,” and “respiratory failure due to delay of medical response,” according to a report by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
At the time of the explosion, four Custom Carbon Processing employees and one driver from Woody’s Trucking were on site, according to OSHA.
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The fire was ignited because while gas condensate was being unloaded into the facility, two heaters were not shut off, according to OSHA. There was one propane space heater in the office and a diesel-powered heater nearby.
Shortcuts to standard protocol at the site included improper electrical wiring and a mistake in the ventilation system that resulted in waste gases being pumped back into the facility, rather than outside, according to court filings by the government.
Prosecutors say employees tried to warn Hurst, the project manager, about safety risks, but he insisted that they accept the gas shipment that led to the explosion.
Hurst had been reporting safety concerns to Margiotta since at least July, when construction ended and the oil reclamation work began, according to prosecutors’ trial brief.
The company folded as a result of the explosion, according to OSHA. Custom Carbon Processing agreed to pay $19,040 in OSHA penalties.
Custom Carbon Processing’s parent company, Green Oasis Environmental, is no longer listed as an active corporation in Florida, where it was headquartered.
In a separate civil suit, the company settled for an undisclosed amount in 2016 with Joshua Garrison and Aaron Osborne, the workers injured in the explosion.