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Administrative Law

OSHA Hits BP Refinery With Monster $87.4M Fine; 15 Died in 2005 Explosion

Posted Oct 30, 2009 1:55 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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The U.S. Department of Labor is seeking to impose a record-breaking $87.4 million in penalties on oil giant BP for safety violations at a refinery it operates in Texas.

Of that amount, $56.7 million relates to a 2005 explosion at the Texas City refinery that killed 15 people and injured well over 150. The other $30.7 million concerns 439 subsequent safety violations that the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration described as willful, reports Reuters.

The monster sanction is more than four times as large as any previous OSHA fine, reports the New York Times.

“Fifteen people lost their lives as a result of the 2005 tragedy, and 170 others were injured,” said Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. “An $87 million fine won’t restore those lives, but we can’t let this happen again. Workplace safety is more than a slogan. It’s the law.”

BP representatives, however, insist that the Texas City facility is compliant with a 2005 agreement to fix safety problems at the refinery and plan to appeal the $87.4 million fine.

Vinson & Elkins, which is representing BP, made a filing today immediately contesting the penalty, and an administrative law judge will now determine whether they should stand, Reuters reports.

"We believe our efforts at the Texas City refinery to improve process safety performance have been among the most strenuous and comprehensive that the refining industry has ever seen," says Keith Casey, who manages the Texas City refinery, in a written statement provided to the news agency. "We remain committed to further enhancing our safety and compliance systems and achieving our goal of becoming an industry leader in process safety."

A criminal case over the refinery explosion led to a guilty plea by BP to an environmental felony and a $50 million fine, although surviving victims expressed concerns about the plea deal, as detailed in earlier ABAJournal.com posts.

BP has paid $1 billion to fix safety problems at the plant and $2 billion to settle civil litigation over the explosion, Reuters reports.

Additional coverage:

Bloomberg: "BP Fined Record $87 Million on Texas Refinery Safety"

CNNMoney.com: "BP faces record $87 million fine"

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