On March 23, 2005, an explosion rocked the Texas City BP refinery outside of Houston. Fifteen people were killed and 170 more were injured. Since then, BP has paid over $2 billion in settlements. And last November the company and the state reached an agreement on a $50 million payment from BP for the tragedy.
And today comes news of a $13 million settlement between BP and the Occupational Safety Hazard Administration. That’s on top of a $21.3 million fine assessed by OSHA shortly after the incident, according to the Houston Chronicle.
The agreement settles 409 of the 439 citations that the agency leveled against BP following the 2009 follow-up inspection. At that time, BP agreed to pay $50.6 million in fines to resolve other citations.
BP, however, was facing more than $30 million in fines for the 439 citations. In Thursday’s agreement, most of the citations were either withdrawn, or re-classified as serious, repeat and unclassified. Only 57 remained classified as willful citations, according to the OSHA announcement.
BP has been trying to sell the plant but hasn’t had much luck finding a buyer because of the ongoing OSHA dispute.
But the Texas City story isn’t over.
There’s still the matter of a massive class action suit making its way through the courts. That action is on behalf of some 45,000 residents living near the plant. In spring 2010, equipment at the plant malfunctioned, and for over a month flaring took place. The suit, filed in August 2010, claims that locals were exposed to 538,000 pounds of chemicals, including 17,000 pounds of benzene. The suit seeks $500 billion from BP.
The law firm Brent Coon, which represented many of the workers in settled suits against BP for the 2005 explosion, released a statement about today’s announcement. “This is yet another step in a long delayed process to return the BP Texas City facility to safe operating conditions,” the firm says. “BP failed to honor the settlement agreement entered into with OSHA in 2007 and failed to honor the terms of their DOJ plea agreement as well. While the additional fines for those failures help add pressure to the management of BP to speed up their safety improvements and maintenance practices, the failure to prosecute management personnel individually has allowed the company to act with less haste than it would have otherwise.”
You can read more about the class action suit by residents for the 2010 flaring incident in our earlier story, How Mass Lawsuits Could Change the Oil and Gas Industry.