A quick look of headlines about the Sinclair refinery near Rawlins paints a grim picture:
- May 2012: "Fire at Sinclair oil refinery in Wyoming burns four"
- May 2012: "Another fire at Sinclair refinery fire in Wyoming injures two"
- August 2012: "No injuries reported in Sinclair Oil Corp. refinery fire near Rawlins"
- October 2012: "Wyoming OSHA fines Sinclair $155,000 for May 8 refinery fire"
- October 2012: "EPA fines Sinclair $378,000 for violations at Rawlins refinery"
- February 2013: "Wyoming OSHA hits Sinclair refinery with another round of fines"
- September 2013: "Explosion rocks Sinclair refinery"
- October 2013: "Wyoming OSHA slaps Sinclair refinery with record $707,000 in fines"
- December 2013: "Fire at Sinclair refinery near Rawlins burns for nearly 7 hours, but nobody injured"
- April 2014: "Sinclair Refinery could face $201,000 fine by OSHA"
Get the picture? See the pattern? Of course you do. So do we: Fire, fine, fire, fine.
But it doesn't seem Sinclair sees it the same way -- or perhaps it doesn't care. Despite years of safety problems that have burned away skin, left scars and damaged lives, Sinclair simply isn't doing what it takes to make the refinery a safe place to work, despite millions of dollars in fines.
Does Sinclair consider such fines -- and the ongoing danger to workers -- just a cost of doing business? What will it take for the company to take its problems at the refinery near Rawlins seriously? Millions of dollars in fine don't seem to make a difference, and we imagine safety regulators are just as frustrated with Sinclair as we are.
We don't accept the excuse that the refinery is an industrial facility. Other refineries do the same work with far fewer flames and far less human cost. A Star-Tribune analysis of federal data in 2013 showed that Wyoming refineries, on a per-barrel basis, were cited for unsafe working conditions more often than refiners elsewhere in the U.S in the previous two years. In large part, Sinclair's refinery near Rawlins swung the needle. Wyoming refineries were cited 205 times for safety violations. More than half were levied against Sinclair.
So that brings us to today. Last week, a government safety agency once more smacked Sinclair with fines, this time totaling $201,000 for safety violations stemming from a September fire. Nobody was hurt in the blaze. But yet again, investigators found violations that were caused by Sinclair’s indifference or willful disregard for safety regulations -- the same story, over and over.
Every time there’s a fire or fines at the refinery, Sinclair trots out a spokesperson to assure us things have changed for the better, citing the company's deep concern, or new safety enhancements or its membership in a state refinery safety group.
We're not a regulatory agency. We can't issue millions of dollars in fines, or threaten Sinclair with a plant shutdown until it figures out its safety failures. All we can do is write these words, and watch from the sidelines as more fires consume more flesh while Sinclair assures us everything will get better soon.
We're not buying that line anymore, and we call on you, our readers, and safety regulators to do whatever you can to make Sinclair take its problems seriously.
It's time to crank up the heat.