More than two years after the death of a Texas oilfield company worker and his wife, a federal grand jury has indicted the company and one of its top executives on multiple charges related to violating environmental and worker safety laws.
The charges against Aghorn Operating Inc. include violations of the Clean Air Act as well as obstructing an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigation. Another company was charged with violating the Safe Drinking Water Act and making false statements about Aghorn’s injection wells’ mechanical integrity.
Husband and wife died from exposure to poisonous gas
The incident at the heart of the case began when the employee was called to investigate a leak at a pump house at Aghorn’s Odessa facility in Oct. 2019. The leaking water contained hydrogen sulfide (H2S), which killed the man. When his wife couldn’t get ahold of him, she went to the facility, where she also perished from the poisonous gas.
The couple’s family filed a lawsuit against the company. They left behind three children. The two younger children accompanied their mother to the site. Fortunately, they remained in their vehicle while she went in to find her husband.
According to the indictment, “Aghorn was aware that its produced water contained high amounts of H2S as well as the deadly nature of the gas.” It also stated that the company, which has oil wells and leases throughout the state, “knowingly violated their general duty to prevent the accidental release” of H2S and “placed another person in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.”
Obstruction of OSHA investigation
The indictment also alleges that Aghorn and one of its vice presidents obstructed OSHA’s investigation of the case. It specifically mentions statements that the VP made to OSHA.
According to an assistant attorney general involved with the case, “The Justice Department will protect and defend the right to a safe workplace, and we will prosecute those who violate federal law aimed at keeping workers safe.”
Even with so much government oversight, oil companies can and do violate employees’ rights to a safe workplace – not to mention all of our rights to a safe environment. If you or a loved one has been harmed or worse due to these violations, it’s wise to seek legal guidance to help ensure that you get the justice and compensation you deserve.