Saturday, October 27, 2007

BP will Plead Guilty in Deadly Plant Blast

British Petroleum (BP) will plead guilty next month to violating the Clean Air Act and will pay a $50 million fine for lax safety that contributed to the deaths of 15 workers in the March 2005 explosion at its Texas City refinery, U.S. Attorney Don DeGabrielle said today.

The catastrophic explosion at the refinery occurred when hydrocarbon vapor and liquid released from a blowdown stack and reached an ignition source, believed to be a pickup truck with its engine running. The 15 contract employees killed at the BP Texas City refinery were located in temporary trailers approximately 150 feet from the blowdown stack. The deceased were Glenn Bolton, Lorena Cruz-Alexander, Rafael Herrera, Daniel Hogan, Jimmy Hunnings, Morris King, Larry Linsenbardt, Arthur Ramos, Ryan Rodriguez, James Rowe, Linda Rowe, Kimberly Smith, Susan Taylor, Larry Thomas and Eugene White. The explosion also caused the injuries of more than 170 other workers at the Texas City refinery.

“This case demonstrates one of the pillars of environmental enforcement: protecting human lives and health,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Ronald J. Tenpas for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. “BP cut corners with disastrous consequences and is being held to account.”

“BP's failure to comply with environmental laws led to the death of 15 people,” said Granta Nakayama, EPA’s [Environmental Protection Agency] Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "This portion of the Clean Air Act is essential to protect workers such as those in the petro-chemical industry, and EPA will continue to vigilantly prosecute any violations of these laws.”

BP agreed to plead guilty to a felony violation of Section 112(r)(7) of the Clean Air Act, which is the first criminal prosecution of that provision. Section 112r was passed in 1990, in response to the explosion occurring at the Union Carbide chemical plant in Bhopal, India, where thousands were killed or injured. Regulations under Section 112(r)(7) require facilities such as the BP Texas City refinery to ensure “release prevention, detection and correction requirements” are followed to prevent catastrophic explosions such as what occurred March 23, 2005.

Source: United States Attorney's Office, Souther District of Texas

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