This case involves residents of a small town in Alabama who suffered severe flooding and subsequent property damages after a hurricane. It was alleged that a local petrochemical refinery complex dammed up a bayou without warning nearby residents. It was further alleged that the refinery purposely pushed floodwater away from their plant and into the surrounding town knowing that it would cause severe property damage to residents. A damages expert estimated that the town suffered approximately $75 million in total property damages. A petrochemical refinery plant manager was sought to speak to best practices when dealing with potential flooding and whether or not there is a duty to collaborate with surrounding communities.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Please describe your experience managing petrochemical and/or refinery plants.
- 2. What duty does a plant have, if any, to have a plan of action for natural disasters, specifically for flooding?
- 3. What obligation does an oil refinery have in warning nearby residentials of potential flooding that is caused by their actions?
Expert Witness Response E-293006
I have 30 years of experience working in refineries. For the last 3.5 years, I have served as the maintenance manager of my refinery where I’ve been responsible for a $2.4 million budget and supervised between 20-40 employees. I was involved in new construction and plant outages and tank cleanings. The refinery has the responsibility to control the water runoff as it contains pollutants that you do not want getting back into the water. The biggest concern with flooding is how to prevent runoff into the rivers, streams, and surrounding roadways. Best practices include sandbagging the areas in tank farms and move the water into empty tanks so that it doesn’t run off. Additionally, the refinery should call in rental companies to assist in the removal of water in the tankage. The refinery must report and be open and forthright with all information and if they are aware of the flooding, they have an obligation to notify officials.
Expert Witness Response E-306769
I have held various positions in senior management for refineries throughout my career including operations supervisor, refinery manager, refining and supply vice-president, and pipeline president. I have experience with direct responsibility for refinery and pipeline operations including incident response plans and external relations plans. I have had management oversight of incident response as the incident commander in refinery and pipeline environments, and I have experience in adversarial pipeline rate litigation before a federal energy regulatory commission judge. All plants have contingency plans to prepare for incidents like such. If the refinery was located in an area where flooding is a possibility and a threat to the community, there should be a contingency plan in place. The refinery must work with residents and communicate warnings to the community. Depending on the nature of the threat and whether the refinery was aware of the threat, the incident commander would have the responsibility to inform the community.