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BP pays $50 million to settle safety citations

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Federal regulators said Thursday that BP will pay a record $50.6 million fine for failing to correct safety issues at its Texas City refinery, where an explosion in 2005 killed 15 workers and injured scores more.

"The size of the penalty rightly reflects BP's disregard for workplace safety and shows that we will enforce the law so workers can return home safe at the end of their day," said Labor Secretary Hilda Solis in a statement.

BP agreed after the deadly incident to perform safety reviews and make permanent corrections at the refinery. The company also paid a $21 million fine, which was a record in 2005.

However, a subsequent investigation last year found that BP had failed to live up to several "extremely important" terms of that agreement, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

As a result, the agency cited BP for 270 "failure to abate" violations totaling $50.6 million, which BP has agreed to pay.

In addition to the failure to abate citations, last year's follow-up investigation uncovered 439 new safety violations and cited BP another $30.7 million.

BP contested the new violations, saying it has taken "extensive actions" to enhance worker safety at the Texas plan and is in full conformance with the 2005 agreement.

Meanwhile, BP has agreed to spend $500 million to improve worker safety at the Texas City location. The company said it has spent $1 billion on safety and infrastructure improvements at the refinery over the last four years.

"We have significantly improved the safety of our operations at Texas City over the last five years and are determined to carry this effort forward effectively in the future," said Steve Cornell, head of BP's U.S. refining business.

The penalties come as BP struggles to rebuild its reputation in the wake of a devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that occurred after a drill rig operated by the London-based oil giant exploded and sank in April, killing 11 workers.

While investigations into the causes of that disaster are ongoing, many critics allege that BP used cheaper and more risky techniques at the expense of safety in the run up to the explosion.

Brent Coon, an attorney who represented victims and victims' families from the 2005 explosion and the Deepwater Horizon, said he was glad to see that BP has agreed to pay the bulk of the recent penalties.

"On the other hand," he said. "We are disappointed to see that BP continues to violate state and federal safety and environmental laws and that they have received any concessions on the fines under the circumstances."

In the years since the 2005 explosion, there have been 3 other fatalities at the Texas City plant, according to Coon. His firm is representing families in two of those cases. To top of page

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