BP handed record environmental fine

Oil giant BP has been fined more than $60m after breaching environmental regulations in the US leading to the death of 15 people.

The penalty is the largest criminal fine ever imposed against a company for violating the Clean Air Act.

BP Products North America has also pledged to spend $400m on safety upgrades and improvements to prevent future chemical releases and spills.

The fine, announced by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last Thursday, follows an explosion at BP’s Texas City refinery in 2005 and an oil spill in Alaska in 2006.

Granta Nakayama, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said: “BP committed serious environmental crimes in our two largest states, with terrible consequences for people and the environment.”

The decision also marks the first criminal prosecution of the Clean Air Act’s requirement for refineries to take steps to prevent accidental releases.

EPA imposed a $50m fine for the explosion in Texas, in which 15 people were killed and more than 170 injured, after investigators concluded the company had failed to ensure safety measures were operating properly.

BP was fined a further $12m for spilling more than 200,000 gallons of crude oil on the North Slope in Alaska – the largest oil spill that has ever occurred in the region.

Investigators said the leak was caused by BP’s failure to properly inspect or clean the pipe.

The company pleaded guilty to one felony violation of the Clean Air Act and one misdemeanour under the Clean Water Act and was sentenced to three years probation for each offence.

“These agreements are an admission that, in these instances, our operations failed to meet our own standards and the requirements of the law. For that, we apologize,” said BP America chairman and president Bob Malone.

He added: “In the months and years since these violations occurred, we have made real progress in the areas of process safety performance and risk management.

“However, there is more to do and we are committed to doing it.”

Kate Martin

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