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BP to pay $13 million for safety violations at Texas refinery

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A 2005 explosion at BP’s Texas City, Texas, refinery killed 15 workers and injured at least 170.

U.S. Chemical Safety Board

Oil giant BP has agreed to pay $13 million in fines to settle more than 400 safety violations at a Texas refinery that suffered a catastrophic explosion in 2005, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said Thursday.

The violations stemmed from a 2009 inspection of BP’s Texas City refinery by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA conducted the inspection to see if BP had corrected safety problems that led to the 2005 blast, which killed 15 workers and injured at least 170. It hadn't.

The settlement “will help ensure that workers don’t have to sacrifice their lives for their livelihood,” Solis said in a teleconference with reporters. “This agreement will save lives.” BP has promised to fix all the cited problems in Texas City by the end of this year.

Jordan Barab, deputy assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said that none of the uncorrected problems is “imminently dangerous.”

BP paid $21 million in fines for violations related to the 2005 explosion. After doing its follow-up inspection in 2009, OSHA cited the company for 270 “failure to abate” violations. BP agreed in 2010 to pay $50.6 million more to resolve those citations.

During the same inspection, OSHA found 439 additional violations and proposed penalties of almost $31 million. The $13 million settlement announced Thursday resolves all but 30 of those violations, which are still being challenged by BP.

BP’s safety performance “significantly improved” after the 2009 inspection and fines, Barab said. “The takeaway is that enforcement works,” he said.

In a press release, Iain Conn, BP’s global head of refining and marketing, said the company aims to be a leader in process safety — the prevention of potentially calamitous fires, explosions and chemical releases. “Today’s agreement represents another milestone in our commitment to safe and compliant operations,” Conn said.

Solis said OSHA intends to “make sure BP lives up to their end of this deal — both to their legal and their moral responsibility to protect the lives of workers who make their company what it is.”

In May 2010, a month after BP’s Deepwater Horizon platform exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and spilling about 5 million barrels of oil, the Center for Public Integrity reported that two BP refineries — in Texas City and Toledo, Ohio — accounted for 97 percent of the flagrant violations cited by OSHA during the previous three years.