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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Statement From Brent Coon on BP Settlement With OSHA Regarding Fines For Safety Violation Stemming From 2005 Texas City Explosion

July 12, 2012, 4:45 pm

We are pleased to see that OSHA is still closely monitoring the work to improve the conditions of the BP Texas City facility, with focus on the condition of the relief valve systems, which are critical to safe operations in refineries.

The failure to properly monitor such relief systems in the past have contributed to a number of incidents in that facility, most notably the explosion in March of 2005 which killed 15 people. This is yet another step in a long delayed process to return the BP Texas City facility to safe operating conditions. BP failed to honor the settlement agreement entered into with OSHA in 2007 and failed to honor the terms of their DOJ plea agreement as well. While the additional fines for those failures help add pressure to the management of BP to speed up their safety improvements and maintenance practices, the failure to prosecute management personnel individually has allowed the company to act with less haste than it would have otherwise.

BCA uncovered many of these failures in the intensive discovery associated with the civil litigation stemming from the 2005 explosion, and assisted various state and federal regulatory and investigative agencies with the fact finding associated to the charges that were eventually brought. We were disappointed that the DOJ failed to prosecute anyone in management for the horrendous failures leading to that explosion and were further disappointed when the DOJ did not seek revocation of their probation in 2009 when it was determined they were in violation of the terms of their plea arrangement with OSHA, a mandate of the plea agreement entered into with the DOJ. We were again disappointed when very limited criminal action has taken place in the two years since the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon, which resulted in 11 more fatalities and was again associated with poor decision-making by management.

BP was freed from the terms of their probation only months ago, without any extension of the probation or other terms or conditions added in spite of their deliberate and repeated failures to honor the terms and conditions as initially agreed upon. This in spite of the fact of the repeated failures to abide by the terms, their failure to update antiquated safety systems in a timely manner, the loss of several additional workers at Texas City due to unsafe work practices and conditions between 2005 and 2010, and the explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, which almost destroyed many fishing, shrimping and tourism based industries.

We are diligently proceeding with our investigation in many aspects of BP operations on behalf of the working men and women of the USW who risk their lives daily working for BP, and for the many innocent victims of BP’s numerous environmental failures, which has contaminated the Gulf of Mexico and the estuaries of the Gulf, and of the illegal releases at their facility which have placed the communities in and around Texas City at risk.

We encourage OSHA to continue to monitor the conditions at all BP facilities and no not only push for the completion of the relief valve inspection programs but to further address numerous other potential safety considerations at their facilities. BP unjustifiably failed to comply with well established industry standards for safe operations in process safety management in order to save money, and at some point management itself should be forced to answer for it.

Brent Coon & Associates was the lead counsel in the BP Texas City Explosion of March 23, 2005, representing hundreds of affected workers. Working with the Chemical Safety Board, Department of Justice, the USW and other organizations, BCA released over 7 million documents to the media concerning refinery safety and played a pivotal role in establishing the occurrences of multiple, major safety violations. Conditions of settlements also included a precedent setting charitable donations program which raised 44 million dollars for UTMB, Texas A&M’s Process Safety Management Center, College of the Mainland, St. Jude’s, and the James and Linda Rowe Scholarship foundations. Brent Coon and his client Eva Rowe were awarded the Steven J. Sharp Award for Excellence by the American Association of Justice for their role.

BCA is now aggressively pursuing restitution for 15,000 claimants in the 2010 oil spill, including workers aboard the rig at the time of the explosion, and many people and businesses in the commercial fisheries and shrimping industry, the gulf coast tourism industry and other industries significantly impacted from the explosion and release of 200,000,000 gallons of oil into the gulf waters.

For more information and background, please visit www.texascityexplosion.com and www.gulfcoastdisaster.com.

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