US: Exxon's illegal crew violates fed law: May face $25G fine over security
ExxonMobil violated a federal antiterrorism law by failing to check the identification of 15 illegal immigrants who were arrested at its Everett fuel depot while trying to clean up an oil spill, authorities said yesterday.
The security breach, which is punishable by a $25,000 fine, has sparked community outrage and multiple investigations into the cause of the breakdown and how illegal aliens came to be employed at a high-security fuel terminal.
"It's unbelievable," said state Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). "We just had a national debate on port security and here we have 15 people who are not only in the country illegally but they are dealing with hazardous materials."
A contractor hired to clean up an oil spill at the ExxonMobil depot disclosed yesterday that the illegal immigrants were supplied by a temporary labor company. The contractor, Fleet Environmental Services of Randolph, said it did not know they were illegal. "Fleet requires temporary labor companies to provide written documentation of 40-hour OSHA training and citizenship/work status for the temporary workers," the company said.
Meanwhile, federal workplace officials have initiated an investigation into the site to determine whether safety rules were violated. The workers, who were all from Ecuador and are now being placed in deportation proceedings, were helping environmental crews clean up an ExxonMobil oil spill in the Mystic River.
"My concerns are whether they had training. Were they even given a (hazardous materials) awareness course?" asked Bob Burns, a hazardous materials safety instructor in Massachusetts. "You need to have 24 hours of supervised, on-site training. You have to be familiar with what's actually happening."
Fleet Environmental declined to answer questions about the workers' training or identify the company that supplied them, saying only that it is investigating.
U.S. Coast Guard officials said yesterday the mere presence of illegal immigrants on the ExxonMobil site was a violation of the federal Maritime Transportation Security Act. The law, passed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, requires that companies operating in U.S. ports maintain a federal security plan and conduct identity checks on people that access their properties.
"Most of the individuals (on the ExxonMobil site) didn't have any identification, so right there you know those ID checks were not happening," said Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Scott Carr.
ExxonMobil, which was forced to halt operations for several hours yesterday because of the violation, said it is continuing to investigate. "We do take these issues very seriously and . . . we have initiated a full investigation into this matter," spokesman Brian Dunphy said.
- 184 Labor