While most of the attention to BP’s safety problems has been focused on its involvement in the tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico, the company has other issues. For example, the oil company agreed recently to pay Texas $50 million for air pollution violations at a Gulf Coast refinery where a 2005 explosion killed 15 workers. The settlement between BP Products North America and the State of Texas, announced by Attorney General Greg Abbott, resolves 72 emissions violations between 2005 and now. The Attorney General said in a Houston news conference that “the violations include some that contributed to the massive explosion six years ago at the Texas City refinery.” Attorney General Abbott said the settlement set a record in Texas. He had this to say about BP’s conduct:
There are rules that must be followed and if you violate those rules there will be consequences. They exposed Houstonians … to poor air quality and now they’re paying the price for it.
The announcement of the settlement came as BP PLC struggles to resolve issues surrounding the infamous April 2010 explosion at the company’s offshore rigging platform in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 people and caused the biggest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. It also comes just a few months after the company indicated a desire to sell the Texas City refinery. The settlement could make it easier for the company to find a buyer, because its pollution liabilities with the state have now been resolved. In August 2010, BP reached a $50.6 million settlement with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration for failing to correct safety violations after the 2005 explosion. At the time, OSHA indicated it was also trying to force the company to pay an additional $30 million in fines.
The settlement also resolves a high-profile 41-day benzene release in April 2010 that prompted a class-action suit by Texas City residents and an investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But this agreement does not resolve lawsuits or investigations by other agencies involving BP.
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