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BP agrees to $50.6 million fine for safety violations in Texas City explosion

The Washington Post

By Sam Hananel Friday, August 13, 2010

Oil giant BP has agreed to pay a record $50.6 million fine for safety violations at a Texas oil refinery where a 2005 explosion killed 15 workers.

Although the fine pales in comparison with the billions of dollars BP has committed to pay for damages caused by the oil spill at its well in the Gulf of Mexico, it is the largest penalty in the history of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Under the agreement, BP will also invest $500 million between now and 2016 to upgrade safety conditions for workers at the refinery in Texas City, about 40 miles southeast of Houston.

“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 L. Solis said.

Scott Dean, a BP spokesman, disputed the assertion that the company has a disregard for safe working conditions. He said OSHA and BP “have agreed to put our differences aside and move forward collaboratively” to enhance workplace safety at the refinery.

OSHA officials have blamed the explosion in Texas City on a piece of equipment that overfilled with highly flammable liquid hydrocarbons. Alarms and gauges that were supposed to warn of the overfill did not work properly.

Also Thursday, BP said officials were conducting tests to determine whether further work is needed to seal the well in the gulf.

A final decision was expected Friday on whether to drill a relief well to allow for a “bottom kill” procedure, in which mud and cement are pumped from deep underground to seal the well permanently.

— Associated Press

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