EVANSVILLE, Wyo. -- As part of a new push toward increased worker safety at Wyoming oil refineries, Gov. Matt Mead invited officials from the Department of Workforce Services and refineries around the state to the Sinclair Refinery in Evansville in the hope of creating an industry alliance.
"We're in a different time now," Mead told a group of 15 representing Sinclair Oil, Antelope Refining, Genesis Energy, Holly Frontier, Wyoming Refining and Silver Eagle Refining.
Worker safety has been an issue at refineries in recent years. According to Mead, two recent fires at a Sinclair refinery near Rawlins prompted the company to call the governor's office and seek a meeting with other refinery representatives.
The fires - both in May - injured six Sinclair workers. Three were
severely injured. A Wyoming OSHA investigation showed that all three were wearing flame-resistant clothing.
Mead told the group that the refining industry is crucial to Wyoming's economy and that worker safety is a good investment. "Safety is good for the bottom line," he said.
The governor encouraged the refinery officials to create a group similar to the Wyoming Oil and Gas Industry Safety Alliance, which is run entirely by industry representatives.
But Mead said he couldn't force the group together - they had to want it.
"Leadership on this has to come from you all," he told the group. "You all have the expertise. You're in the best position to say, 'Here's some things that can help.'"
Mead told the group that he'd be willing to sign his name to worker safety awards to be given to high achievers in the group. He spoke for about 15 minutes before leaving for another appointment. Senior policy adviser Gary Hartman spoke to the group next, followed by Workforce Services representatives.
"Here's what we're not here to do," Hartman said. "We're not here to tell you what to do. You've got a lot of good information collectively on safety. We're here to help you."
Response at the meeting was warm.
"We're all dealing with the same issues, the same cultures we're trying to change," said Kevin Burke, a representative of Holly Frontier. "I think you're going to get all the folks in this room on board."
Others at the meeting agreed.
"We're very interested in what Wyoming is trying to do," said Jerry Lockie of Silver Eagle Refining. "We're pretty excited about the opportunity to move forward."
Members of the industry closed the meeting to the press after remarks from Hartman and the Workforce Services representatives. Mead said after the meeting he's hopeful about the possibility of a new alliance forming.
"I think there's a real opportunity here," he said. "I'm encouraged they're eager to get on board with this."