From: Andy Soos, ENN
Published October 1, 2010 01:44 PM

BP Texas City Aftermath

Accidents happen. Unfortunately, for BP, they have been in the news often for some major incidents. Besides the Gulf of Mexico spill this year, there was the March 23, 2005 incident. This was a fire and explosion that occurred at BP's Texas City Refinery in Texas City, Texas, killing 15 workers and injuring more than 170 others. BP was charged with criminal violations of federal environmental laws and has been subject to lawsuits from the victim's families. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration slapped BP with a then-record fine for hundreds of safety violations, and subsequently imposed an even larger fine after claiming that BP had failed to implement safety improvements following the disaster. BP has now been agreed to pay a $15 million penalty that resolves federal civil claims stemming from the two fires, leak, and reporting violations at the refinery that occurred in the same time frame.

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The Texas City Refinery is a large oil refinery in the state and is the third largest in the United States. BP acquired the Texas City refinery as part of its merger with Amoco in 1998.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Justice Department announced recently that BP Products North America Inc. has agreed to pay a $15 million penalty to resolve federal Clean Air Act violations at its Texas City, Texas petroleum refinery. The penalty is both the largest ever assessed for civil violations of the Clean Air Act’s chemical accident prevention regulations, also known as the risk management program regulations, and the largest civil penalty recovered for Clean Air Act violations at an individual facility.

The settlement, which is subject to court approval, addresses violations stemming from two fires that occurred at the refinery on March 30, 2004 and July 28, 2005, and a leak that occurred on August 10, 2005. During the three incidents, each of which resulted in the surrounding Texas City community to shelter-in-place, thousands of pounds of flammable and toxic air pollutants were released.

EPA identified the Clean Air Act violations addressed in today’s settlement during a series of inspections of the Texas City refinery initiated after a catastrophic explosion and fire on March 23, 2005. In addition to the Clean Air Act General Duty Clause and risk management program violations resolved by today’s settlement, EPA also identified violations of other Clean Air Act requirements at the refinery relating to the control of benzene, ozone-depleting substances, and asbestos. These other violations were resolved in a February 2009 settlement that required BP to spend more than $161 million on pollution controls, enhanced maintenance and monitoring, and improved internal management practices at the refinery, as well as pay a $12 million civil penalty and spend another $6 million on a supplemental project to reduce air pollution in Texas City and the surrounding area.

With today’s settlement, the federal government will have recovered approximately $137 million in criminal, civil, and administrative fines related to process safety violations at the Texas City refinery. In addition, BP Products has performed approximately $1.4 billion in corrective actions and the company will spend an estimated additional $500 million, to improve safety at the refinery as required by settlements entered into with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the criminal Clean Air Act plea agreement following the fatal March 23, 2005 explosion.

That explosion killed 15 workers and injured more than 170 others. BP was charged with criminal violations of federal environmental laws and has been subject to lawsuits from the victim's families. OSHA  slapped BP with a then-record fine for hundreds of safety violations, and subsequently imposed an even larger fine after claiming that BP had failed to implement safety improvements following the disaster.

BP has been quoted as saying that they had paid out $1.6 billion in compensation claims as of early 2008.

Money is not everything but is one way to assess blame and incur punishment. It can only be hoped that this was enough.

For further information: http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/0/564D19D4596F72F4852577AE005249B9 or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texas_City_Refinery_%28BP%29

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