State regulators fine Shell Oil for toxic release in Anacortes

TUMWATER, Wash. (AP) — Washington state regulators have fined Shell Oil Products $77,000 after an investigation found that it failed to control a toxic release.

The Department of Labor and Industries said Friday that they began investigating Shell's Puget Sound Refinery in Anacortes after learning that the refinery's main flare released contaminates into the environment.

The release prompted complaints about the odor by people living nearby.

A refinery flare is designed to burn off waste gases and vapors not used in production. It also helps to prevent fires. But the flare must be decontaminated and shut down periodically for maintenance.

Inspectors found that Shell had skipped critical decontamination steps while shutting down the main flare.

The uncontrolled release exposed workers to toxic substances.

Shell has 15 days to appeal the citation and fine.