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August 12th, 2010

BP Agrees to Pay $50 Million Fine in Texas City Refinery Explosion

BP has agreed to pay a record fine of $50 million  for safety violations at its Texas City refinery.  That refinery was the scene of a massive blast in 2005 that killed 15 plant workers and injured dozens of others.  Long before the Deepwater Horizon explosion blew the lid off BP’s safety record, the Texas City refinery was a stunning testament to BPs failure to ensure adequate safety for workers.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed the new penalties after BP failed to make corrections to its safety procedures at the Texas City refinery after the blast.  The company had earlier settled with the agency, promising to make the changes, but those changes never came.  This is now the single largest fine in OSHA history, and is ahead of the earlier topper, $21 million in fines also paid out by BP.

The company is continuing to contest an additional $30 million in fines.  OSHA insists that BP has failed to repair safety valves that work to prevent equipment and pipes from being over pressurized.  Besides, OSHA says that BP continued to commit hundreds of safety violations at the Texas City refinery even after the blasts in 2005.

It may be the biggest fine in OSHA history, but it pales in significance compared to the billions of dollars maritime lawyers believe BP will likely have to pay out in connection with the Gulf of Mexico rig explosion.  The company can expect fines of up to $21 billion for the environmental damage caused when the Deepwater Horizon rig, which BP operated exploded, in April.

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