On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced that BP Products North America Inc. will pay a full penalty of $50.6 million for safety violations resulting in the 2005 explosion at its Texas City, Texas, refinery.
The incident killed 15 workers and injured 170 others, and BP has agreed to take immediate steps to protect those now working at the refinery, allocating a minimum of $500 million to that effort.
This penalty is the highest fine ever issued by OSHA and paid by an employer.
“This agreement achieves our goal of protecting workers at the refinery and ensuring that critical safety upgrades are made as quickly as possible,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “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.”
Unfortunately, this harsh criticism comes too late to save the 11 workers who perished in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion, and the thousands of Gulf Coast residents who are now suffering the environmental consequences of BP’s quest for more oil.
Among the provisions of this latest penalty is BP’s agreement to establish a liaison between its North American and London boards of directors and OSHA, which will allow the agency to raise compliance problems at the highest level.
Combined with the $20 billion escrow fund that BP has set aside for victims of the crisis in the Gulf, one can’t help but wonder how these hefty fines will affect the corporation in the future.
As authorities dig deeper into BP’s safety record, it’s becoming harder to imagine that people will want to tie their financial futures to Big Oil’s sinking ship. According to Earth and Industry, the majority of Americans say they won’t invest in oil in the future.
With a dwindling supply of crude oil and a lack of financial backing, economics and not the environment might be the catalyst needed to bring renewable energy to the forefront.
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Image Credit: US Chemical Safety Board
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