BP’s Texas City Probation Ends

Wednesday, March 14, 2012 @ 05:03 PM gHale

BP’s refining subsidiary is now off criminal probation related to a 2005 explosion in Texas City that killed 15 workers.

The company addressed the most serious safety deficiencies exposed by the accident and satisfied the terms of a felony plea agreement to settle charges it failed to protect workers from known risks, a U.S. Justice Department spokesman said.

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The move closes one chapter for the company, but it leaves worker-safety issues unresolved. BP is still negotiating over more than 400 additional violations brought against its Texas City refinery separately from the criminal case.

Following the explosion, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and BP reached a settlement requiring the company to address safety issues at the refinery. Fixing those problems became one of the Justice Department’s conditions for settling felony charges relating to the explosion and for ending the three-year probation period.

In late 2009, however, after a series of inspections, OSHA determined BP had not addressed its safety lapses and levied 270 additional violations and an $87.4 million fine. It also hit the company with, and another 39 additional “egregious and willful” safety violations at the refinery that were not a component of the criminal case.

At issue then was whether the company had violated some of the most important terms of its probation even after it got a second chance. In 2010, BP settled with OSHA, paying the agency $50.6 million and committing to making substantive safety changes by the court-set end of its probation period which was March 12.

A Justice Department spokesman said BP has met its obligations for probation, including addressing the 270 violations. The remaining 400 or so OSHA violations, however, were not specific to the Texas City agreement.

“These violations were unrelated to the 2005 settlement agreement and did not in the Department’s view rise to criminal conduct,” said Wyn Hornbuckle, an agency spokesman. “The Department did not seek any extension or revocation of BP’s criminal probation.”

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