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Coffeyville Resources Refinery Up and Running After Oil Spill, Yet Much of the Town of Coffeyville Uninhabitable

Aug 21, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP, LLP

The Coffeyville Resources Refinery in Kansas has reopened, and is working at near full capacity, the company announced Friday.   The refinery was the site of a catastrophic oil spill earlier this month that made much of the town of Coffeyville, Kansas uninhabitable.  

Coffeyville Resources had said that it expected operations at the refinery to be in full swing by September, but the recovery process has gone much faster than expected.  Prior to the oil spill, the Coffeyville Resources Refinery had been processing about 108,000 barrels of crude oil each day.  Presently, the plant is refining around 98,000 barrels per day.  

Meanwhile, the town of Coffeyville has been slower to recover from the devastating oil spill.  Between July 1 and July 2, 2007, more than 71,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from the Coffeyville Resources Refinery.  The problem was not noticed for several hours.  Due to widespread flooding, the crude oil reached and damaged a very large area.  More than 2,500 residents and businesses were displaced by the oil spill, and more than 200 residences were destroyed.   While some of those evacuated have been able to return home, many other buildings in the town were contaminated so badly by the crude oil that they were condemned.   Coffeyville Resources has offered to buy out the most badly damaged properties, but even with such help many residents of the town are still faced with huge financial and personal losses.

The investigation into the Coffeyville oil spill found that workers at the refinery had failed to close a valve on one of the oil storage tanks when they were rushing to prepare the plant for an emergency shutdown ahead of the flood.   Because of that oversight, oil was able to flow into a bigger storage tank until it overflowed.   At a town meeting following the spill, many Coffeyville citizens questioned why Coffeyville Resources waited so long to shut down when it was well known that the flood was coming.  Plant spokesman Steve Eames later told the Wichita Eagle that employees did their best to shut the refinery down.  Eames clamed that a malfunctioning flood gauge upstream on the Verdigris River led the plant workers to believe they would have more time to shut down the refinery.  But that day, the National Weather Service had issued other warnings that indicated record flooding was imminent.

Already, one class action lawsuit has been filed against the owners of the Coffeyville Resources Refinery on behalf of a man who lost his business to the oil spill.  The law firms involved in that suit opened a legal office in Coffeyville earlier this month.   The office, which will remain open until August 25, will take legal claims on behalf of anyone affected by the Coffeyville Resources Refinery oil spill.


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