|An explosion at BP’s Texas City refinery in March of 2005 killed 15 workers. BP has agreed to pay OSHA a $50.6 million fine for failing to correct safety hazards. (William Philpott/AFP/Getty Images)|
BP set to pay record fine
Agrees to $50m in penalties after fatal blast in ’05
WASHINGTON — Beleaguered oil giant
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said yesterday it is still working to collect another $30 million from BP Products North America for other penalties that the company is contesting.
“The size of the penalty rightly reflects BP’s disregard for workplace safety and shows that we will enforce the law so workers can return home safe at the end of their day,’’ Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said in a conference call with reporters.
While the fines pale compared with the billions BP is committed to paying out for damages caused by the massive oil spill at its well in the Gulf of Mexico, it stands as the largest penalty issued in OSHA’s history.
OSHA initially had proposed $87 million in penalties in October, but reduced it to $80 million because it had inadvertently imposed several duplicate fines.
BP spokesman Scott Dean strongly denied Solis’s assertion that BP has a disregard for safe working conditions. He said the $50.6 million penalty was a condition of the settlement but “does not mean that BP violated our previous agreement with OSHA or disregarded worker safety.’’
“Rather than litigate the citations, OSHA and BP have agreed to put our differences aside and move forward collaboratively to continue a multiyear program to further enhance workplace safety at Texas City,’’ Dean said in a written statement.
Under the agreement, BP will invest $500 million between now and 2016 to upgrade safety conditions that will protect those now working at the refinery. OSHA Deputy Assistant Secretary Jordan Barab said the agreement gives the safety agency “an unprecedented level of oversight’’ in making sure BP fully complies.
The company will hold regular meetings with OSHA officials, allow frequent site inspections and submit quarterly reports detailing its progress in correcting the plant’s pressure release systems. BP is creating a liaison between its North American and London boards of directors and OSHA so the agency can raise compliance problems at the highest levels.
BP had contested the entire amount before agreeing to pay $50 million for hundreds of violations that it was supposed to fix under a 2005 agreement with the agency. OSHA said that BP had failed to make the improvements quickly enough, while BP had sought additional time to complete the repairs.
The agency has alleged that BP committed hundreds of new violations at the plant since the blast occurred. OSHA wants BP to pay another $30 million in penalties for allegedly failing to repair safety valves that protect equipment and pipes from becoming overpressurized. Barab said negotiations over those penalties are ongoing.