Texas Company's Former President Sentenced, Fined for Employee Deaths

He admitted not protecting workers from hydrogen sulfide, which killed two truck drivers in 2008 and 2009.

The U.S. Justice Department announced Oct. 28 that Matthew L. Bowman, 41, former president of Port Arthur Chemical and Environmental Services LLC, was sentenced to serve 12 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Marcia Crone. He violated the OSH Act, pleading guilty in May 2013 for violating the act and making a false statement. The judge also ordered Bowman to pay $5,000 in fines.

Robert G. Dreher, acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, and John M. Bales, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas, announced the sentence.

"Bowman admitted to not properly protecting PACES employees from exposure to hydrogen sulfide, a poisonous gas resulting in the death of truck driver Joey Sutter on Dec. 18, 2008. In addition, Bowman admitted to directing employees to falsify transportation documents to conceal that the wastewater was coming from PACES after a disposal facility put a moratorium on all shipments from PACES after it received loads containing hydrogen sulfide," according to DOJ.

"Today's sentence is a just punishment for Bowman's actions, which placed workers at unacceptable risk and had fatal consequences," Dreher said. "The Justice Department and the U.S. attorney’s offices will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to vigorously investigate and prosecute those who violate the laws enacted to ensure the safety of workers handling hazardous materials and to prevent the kind of tragedies that occurred in this case."

"The government's prosecution of Matthew Bowman is now complete. While Mr. Bowman is being held accountable for his criminal conduct, and that is appropriate, there is no amount of time in prison. No amount of criminal fine that can be levied that will compensate for the loss of life at PACES. We extend our deepest condolences and well wishes to the friends and family of Mr. Sutter, who died pitilessly and needlessly because of the criminally negligent actions of Matthew Bowman," Bales said. "The agents and prosecutors conducted an outstanding investigation and prosecution."

According to information presented in court, PACES produced and sold caustic materials to paper mills, and producing caustic materials involved H2S. Two employees, Joey Sutter and Charles Sittig, who were truck drivers at the PACES facility, died Dec. 18, 2008, and Apr. 14, 2009. Bowman and PACES were indicted by a federal grand jury on July 18, 2012.

The case was investigated by EPA Criminal Investigation Division; the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General; the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's Environmental Crimes Unit; the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Environmental Crimes Unit; the Houston Police Department's Major Offenders, Environmental Investigations Unit; Travis County's District Attorney's Office; Harris County District Attorney's Office’s Environmental Crimes Division; the Houston Fire Department; OSHA; the U.S. Coast Guard; the Port Arthur Police Department; and the Port Arthur Fire Department.

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