A U.S. House committee today approved a plan that would block BP from obtaining new federal offshore oil and natural gas drilling permits because of the company’s record of worker safety violations at its Texas refinery.
A Center for Public Integrity investigation reported in May that BP accounted for 97 percent of all flagrant violations found in the U.S. refining industry by government safety inspectors during the past three years. Most of BP’s citations were classified as “egregious willful” violations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and according to refinery inspection data obtained by the Center, reflected BP’s failure to correct problems after a deadly blast at its Texas City, Texas, refinery.
As part of its work on an offshore oil drilling reform bill, the House Natural Resources Committee approved Democratic Rep. George Miller’s amendment to prohibit new permits to BP or any other company with a “significant history” of violating worker safety or environmental law. Specifically, the Miller amendment would bar a company from drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf if had five times the industry average for willful or repeat worker safety violations at its oil and gas facilities; if more than 10 fatalities occurred at any of its facilities; or if it incurred fines of $10 million or more under Clean Air or Water Act within the preceding 7 years.
The 2005 explosion at BP’s Texas City refinery killed 15. OSHA has proposed penalties of $87 million for alleged violations at BP’s refinery in Texas City and $3 million for deficiencies at its refinery in Toledo, Ohio.
“Actions have consequences,” said Miller, who is chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. “Companies with a history of being dangerous to workers or to the environment should not have the privilege of drilling off America’s coastline for our natural resources.”
Current federal law does not require regulators to consider an energy company’s record before awarding offshore drilling permits.
The committee is working on a bill to overhaul how the federal government oversees offshore drilling and leasing program following the blowout and disasterous spill from a BP well in the Gulf of Mexico.