BP will pay $13 million to resolve most of its outstanding safety citations stemming from a post-explosion inspection in 2009, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said.
Overall, BP has agreed to $84 million in fines to the federal agency since the 2005 explosion that killed 15 workers and injured 170 more. BP has been trying to sell the refinery and has been eager to resolve the lingering issue of the outstanding citations.
The agreement settles 409 of the 439 citations 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 In Thursday’s agreement, most of the citations were either withdrawn, or re-classified as serious, repeat and unclassified.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.
“The general enforcement takeaway is that enforcement works,” said Jordan Barab, deputy assistant secretary of the Department of Labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “It definitely got BP’s attention. Their behavior has significantly improved. We felt in 2009 that BP was behind the curve in terms of refinery safety, but that they are making sincere efforts to improve and have improved. They have said they would like to become a leader in process safety.”
He added that OSHA no longer sees any imminent threats to safety at the refinery.
“We’ve been very satisfied by the way BP has responded,” he said. He pointed to the installation of a sophisticated safety instrument system that the company is planning to add to other facilities.
They will resolve the remaining citations later this year.
Officials said the safety agency and BP are still disputing 30 citations — which reclassified into 22 citations – dealing with the complicated operations of pressure release valves. The Department of Labor requires refineries to comply with the best engineering practices in terms of maintaining these valves.
BP disputes the interpretation of those practices, and the safety agency has said litigation is possible to resolve that dispute.
BP said in a statement it has made major improvements in safety and environmental compliance at the Texas City Refinery. The company spent more than $1 billion on safety and infrastructure improvements at the refinery between 2005 and 2009 and allocated another $500 million for activities specified in its 2010 settlement agreement with OSHA.
BP said, “The work it performed for the 2010 agreement has been verified by independent experts as well as OSHA to ensure consistent implementation and compliance with standards.”
BP has paid more than $2 billion to settle lawsuits stemming from the blast and paid a $21.3 million fine to OSHA in the months after the blast.