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BP Fined Record $50.6 Million for Texas City Explosion

Embattled BP has suffered yet another blow. The company has agreed to pay a record $50.6 million fine for safety violations that caused the 2005 industrial accident at its Texas oil refinery. An explosion at the refinery killed 15 workers and injured 170 others.

According to OSHA, the 2005 explosion was caused when a piece of equipment became overfilled with liquid hydrocarbons that are highly flammable. Meanwhile, the alarms and gauges that were supposed to warn of overfill were not working properly.

Although this fine is paltry compared to the billions of dollars BP will shell out as damages for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it is the largest penalty ever issued in the history of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The previous largest fine was $21 million, which BP was fined in September of 2005 for the same Texas City incident.

In addition to the fine, BP has also agreed to invest $500 million dollars between now and 2016. These funds will be used to improve safety conditions for workers at the Texas City refinery, located about 40 miles southeast of Houston.

Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis stated, "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."

However, a BP spokesman denied the allegations that BP demonstrates disregard for safety and workplace conditions. Rather, he stated that BP and OSHA have put their differences aside and plan to work together to ensure safe working conditions at the Texas refinery.

Source: The Washington Post "BP agrees to $50.6 million fine for safety violations in Texas City explosion" 8/13/10

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