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OIL COMPANY EXECUTIVE SENTENCED TO 29 MONTHS IN PRISON

Release Date: 11/04/99
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FOR RELEASE: THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 1999
OIL COMPANY EXECUTIVE SENTENCED TO 29 MONTHS IN PRISON

John R. Cooke was sentenced to serve 29 months in prison and three years of supervised release and to pay $6,000 in fines and special assessments by the U.S. District Court in Natchez, Miss., on Oct. 25. Cooke, who is from the Houston, Texas, area was an executive and part owner of M&S Petroleum Inc., which operated the Barrett Refinery south of Vicksburg, Miss. In July a jury found Cooke guilty of one count of conspiracy, four counts of violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), two counts of violating the Clean Air Act and three counts of making false statements. Between April 1995 and May 1996, Cooke violated the Clean Water Act by discharging pollutants into the Mississippi River and Hatcher Bayou. He made false statements to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and intentionally did not perform required environmental testing at the refinery. The result of the conspiracy was the unpermitted discharge of benzene and other pollutants into the Mississippi River and Hatcher Bayou and the release of benzene into the air. Benzene is acutely toxic and
can cause cancer. In addition, more than one million gallons of hazardous wastes were abandoned at the refinery in violation of RCRA. Barrett Refining was ordered to pay a $25,000 fine and serve 36 months probation. Barrett’s part owner Donald Mullins was sentenced to three years of supervised probation and 150 hours of community service. M&S Petroleum was sentenced to pay a $25,000 fine and serve five years probation. The case was investigated by EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division with the assistance of EPA’s National Enforcement Investigations Center and EPA’s Region 4 office, the Inspector General’s Office of U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and was prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice.

R-137 ###