HOUSTON, Texas – The US Labor Department has indicated that BP Plc could face a criminal enquiry into the explosion at its Texas refinery in March. That explosion was responsible for 15 deaths and injured 170 people.
“A verbal referral has been made to the Department of Justice. It is now up to the Department of Justice to decide whether or not to pursue it,” confirmed Alan Belsky, a Labor Department spokesman, adding ”When you have a case where there are willful violations found and those violations are tied directly to fatalities, the Department of Labor has the option to refer the case to the Justice Department.”
However, a Justice spokesman declined to comment on the referral. Earlier on Friday, BP had issued a final report of its own investigation into the accident and accepted the responsibility for the blast on March 23. BP was already fined $21.3 million in September when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had found more than 300 lapses in health and safety measures.
The 192-page report of BP’s internal investigation into the incident acknowledged that the management failed to make safety a priority and that some procedures were willfully bypassed. It also “accepted responsibility for the March 23rd explosion and for the management system failures and employee mistakes which contributed to or caused the explosion.”
The United Steelworkers union, of which most of the BP workers are a part, said that the report vindicated their stand that the explosion was not caused by the negligence of a few workers, but by the management failure over many years.
The Texas City complex is BP’s biggest refinery in North America and pumps out 460,000 barrels-per-day. Ross Pillari, president of BP said that they accepted the findings of the report and would spend close to $1 billion to make sure that the plant is rendered safe.
“We are working to make Texas City a complex that attains the highest levels of safety, reliability and environmental performance,” Pillari said. In the backdrop of this news, London-based BP’s shares fell 1.9 percent to $67.15 by mid-day on the New York exchange.