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CAPECO disaster, Puerto Rico

30 million gallons of petroleum released to water bodies, and neighboring wetlands to San Juan Bay, dead wildlife and health impacts on the population. But CAPECO declared bankruptcy and did not repair its damages


The petroleum refinery started in Puerto Rico in 1995, settled in Bayamon as CAPECO. Through time, ownership has changed following the purchase by Gulf Oil Corporation (1962), Chevron Corporation (1984), First Oil Corporation (1987) and last, Puma Energy Caribe (2011). It was used as a petroleum storage terminal and distribution facility for gasoline, fuel oil, jet and diesel fuel with an open space of 179 acres and 48 storage tanks. On the night of October 23, 2009 a large explosion occurred at the refinery which burned a total of 17 petroleum storage tanks.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:CAPECO disaster, Puerto Rico
Country:Puerto Rico
State or province:Puerto Rico
Location of conflict:Bayamón
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Chemical industries
Specific commodities:Crude oil
Chemical products
Project Details and Actors
Project details

There were 11 tanks that exploded and then it rapidly spreads to nearby tanks. A total of 17 out of 48 tanks were burned. The explosion was measured to a 2.8 magnitude earthquake Ritcher scale. Flames reached a height of 30m above the refinery. CSB estimated nearly 200,000 gallons of gasoline were escaped, equivalent to 107 acres.

Project area:72.44 hectares
Type of populationUrban
Start of the conflict:2009
End of the conflict:01/05/2010
Company names or state enterprises:Caribbean Petroleum Corporation (CAPECO) from Puerto Rico
Relevant government actors:Fire Department Station.
Police Department
International and Finance InstitutionsGulf Oil Corporation from United States of America - Owners of the refinary
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Act)
CSB(Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board)
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)
Emergency Management State Agency
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Industrial workers
International ejos
Local government/political parties
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Fires, Global warming, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Oil spills, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Soil erosion, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Application of existing regulations
Withdrawal of company/investment
Development of alternatives:Implement a prevention program that includes process safety information, process hazard analysis, standard operating procedures, training, mechanical integrity, compliance audits, incident investigations, management of change (MOC), pre-startup reviews, employee participation, and hot work permits.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:COPECO declared bankruptcy and left the area without repairing the damages. EPA took over the cleaning process.
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Clean Water Act
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Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act
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Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
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Clean Air ACt
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Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure
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Oil Protection Act
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Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

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CASO CAPECO - Revelan lo que pasó en caso CAPECO, seis años después
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Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

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Meta information
Contributor:Verónica Fontanals Cuebas/ UPRM/ [email protected]
Last update10/07/2017
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