Workers at BP's Texas City refinery -- the facility where a 2005 fire killed 15 people and injured hundreds more -- have filed a lawsuit against BP over an equipment problem that released 500,000 pounds of pollutants, including benzene, over 40 days this spring. BP's recent pollutant spewing accident -- and the $10 billion lawsuit that has followed -- is just one more reminder of how pervasive the cost-over-safety culture is in its U.S. operations.
BP just can't seem to fix its Texas City refinery problem. Investigations that followed the 2005 refinery explosion found management focused on cutting maintenance and capital spending costs, and managers' performance was measured in part by their ability to meet these goals.
More recently, a report by the Center for Public Integrity found that two BP refineries -- Texas City and its Toledo, Ohio facility -- account for 97 percent of all willful violations found in the refining industry over the past three years.
This latest safety boondoggle is egregious not just because of the act itself, but the failure to tell city officials about it. BP filed an initial report with state's environmental commission April 7, the day after the unit at the refinery malfunctioned and was subsequently shutdown. The commission didn't receive a full report until June 4 -- and after pollutants had been released over 40 days. BP didn't tell city officials until right before the full report was filed.
This latest episode is a warning shot for the folks living on the Gulf coast. Not only is BP responsible for cleaning up the Gulf oil spill, the company also is supposed to improve safety and at its offshore drilling operations. In short: If BP can't get a handle on its refinery after five years of trying, whose to say it can or will improve its offshore drilling practices?