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Oil & Gas

Monitor: BP improving safety after deadly accident

May 21, 2008
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According to the Associated Press, oil giant BP PLC, criticized for a poor safety culture after a deadly 2005 plant explosion, is making substantial progress in improving safety of its U.S. operations, according to a report by an independent monitor.

The monitor, L. Duane Wilson, was appointed by BP in May 2007 to keep tabs on the company''s implementation of recommendations made by an independent panel led by former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker.

Baker''s panel reviewed safety at BP''s five North American refineries. The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board urged BP to form the group during a probe of the Texas City blast that killed 15 people and injured more than 170.

The CSB found BP fostered bad management at the plant, and that BP''s cost-cutting moves were factors in the explosion.

Process safety refers to the prevention of fires, explosions and releases at a refinery. It is separate from issues related to individual worker safety, such as protective clothing.

Brent Coon, one of the attorneys for blast victims, was skeptical about the report. He cited three worker deaths since the 2005 accident as a sign that significant improvements are needed.

BP spokesman Daren Beaudo said the report speaks for itself.

Concerns about whether BP would meet its safety obligations remain an obstacle to a plea agreement the federal government has proposed to settle BP''s criminal conduct in the blast.

The much-criticized plea deal, which has a BP subsidiary pleading guilty to a violation of the Clean Air Act, includes a $50 million fine and sentences BP to three years'' probation.

Prosecutors and BP have defended the agreement, saying it''s the harshest option available in assessing criminal punishment. A congressional committee is investigating the deal.

Family members of those killed and workers injured by the blast say the fine is insufficient.
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