Ashland Oil Spill - A Petroleum Tragedy - Legal and Ethical Issues

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Introduction: There are certainly legal and ethical issues involved in the Ashland diesel spill in 1988. Were laws violated in the construction of the tank and by the spill? What was Ashland's ethical responsibility when building the tank, and when responding to the incident?


Legal Issues: Two legal issues involved in this case study will be examined. The first is if the tank was built legally, and the second is if a law was broken by the spill itself.

Legal Analysis - Building the Tank:

Types of Legal Approval Required

The tank, as indicated in the case study, was built in 1986 and put in service in early January 1988. Generally, there are a number of legal responsibilities that must be met to build a tank such as this. Without knowing the specific laws in Pennsylvania, generalities must be used. The builder must obtain a type of building permit.

The purpose of the permit is to ensure that the zoning is acceptable and that the asset value is documented for tax purposes. The permit may also require that the thing being built is constructed to the proper codes and standards, and serve as notice to various inspectors that may need to inspect the construction to ensure the proper materials, workmanship, worker safety precautions, etc., are being met.

Environment Requirements

Also, for a diesel tank such as this, some type of discharge permit would be required. The discharge permit, from the state environmental agency, and the EPA, would be required because occasionally rainwater would collect in the tank dike, and this water would need to be removed and, most generally, discharged to "navigable waters." If this water were drained directly outside of the facility, then a permit would be required for the specific drain. If the water is drained into...