Originally posted by Monica Hatcher - Houston Chronicle - September 27, 2010
The U.S. Department of Justice will not seek to revoke BP's criminal probation for allegedly failing to make safety upgrades at its Texas City refinery following a deadly 2005 explosion, despite pleas from victims' families to reopen the case.
The decision, explained in two letters to U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal earlier this month, follows a record $50.6 million settlement between BP and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Allegations by OSHA
OSHA last year alleged that the company failed to meet a 2009 deadline to make all of the safety upgrades required under an agreement forged shortly after the explosion at Texas City that killed 15 people and injured nearly 200.
BP agreed in August to pay the fine and submit to inspections and other OSHA requirements but did not admit to violating the terms of the 2005 agreement.
A company spokesman could not be reached for comment late Monday.
Attorneys representing family members of the blast victims contended that last month's settlement showed BP had not complied with the original OSHA pact and therefore ran afoul of a separate plea agreement reached with the Justice Department in a criminal case related to the blast.
In that deal, reached last year, BP pleaded guilty to a felony violation of the Clean Air Act. The company agreed to pay some $50 million in fines and comply with the 2005 OSHA safety agreement as a condition of probation.
Attorney Brent Coon, who represented several families, said the recent settlement was grounds for revoking BP's probation and seeking further prosecution.
"At the very least, the DOJ should fine BP a significant additional amount for failing to comply," Coon said.
Daniel Dooher, an attorney with the Justice Department's environmental crimes section, explained in letters to Rosenthal why prosecutors were not seeking to revoke BP's probation. Because OSHA had reached a new agreement, he wrote, the government would now accept those terms as the condition of BP's criminal probation.
The letters to Rosenthal were first reported by Truthout.org.