TOPICS > Economy

Oil and Gas Giant BP to Pay Fines Totaling $373M

BY   October 25, 2007 at 5:05 PM EDT

BP Oil Pipeline

In the refinery
explosion case, Europe’s second-largest company agreed to plead guilty next
month to a felony violation of the Clean Air Act for the March 2005 blast at a BP
facility in Texas City, Texas, and pay a $50 million fine. The
explosion killed 15 refinery workers.

U.S. Attorney for
the Southern District of Texas Don DeGabrielle said that the company lacked
important safety systems, placed flimsy trailers in unsafe areas and failed to
inform workers about a dangerous ignition process at the plant, the Houston Chronicle

In addition to that
plea deal, the company will also admit to an environmental crime and pay $20
million to the state of Alaska and the
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for
2006 oil leaks in pipelines in Prudhoe
Bay, Alaska. Two
corroded pipelines spilled more than 200,000 gallons of oil on the Alaskan
tundra, the nation’s largest oil field.

In another case, the
company will pay $303.5 million in an agreement to settle allegations of a
propane price-gouging scheme in 2004.

investigators looked at whether BP energy traders attempted to artificially
increase the price of propane by buying a large supply of the gas and then
withholding those supplies to force other buyers to pay more for the scarce
resource, the Associated Press reported.

Additionally, a federal grand jury
in Chicago on Thursday indicted four former BP
employees who were caught on tape discussing the alleged scheme to corner U.S.
propane markets, news agencies reported. BP is the largest propane supplier in North America.

BP American Chairman
and President Bob Malone released a statement admitting that his company was
responsible for the violations.

“[The agreements] represent an absolute commitment to
work with the government as we continue our efforts to prevent another tragedy
like Texas City, to make our Prudhoe
Bay pipeline corrosion program more responsive to changing
operating conditions and to ensure that our participation in the nation’s
energy markets is always appropriate,” he said.

DeGabrielle said
that while the company is no longer in legal jeopardy, individual employees
could be charged with crimes.

“Part of the agreement with BP is that they will
continue to cooperate as they have throughout this investigation with us,”
he said, according to the Houston Chronicle’s report. “This includes
making employees and witnesses available to us, making other documentary and
physical evidence available to us as needed or requested.”