Federal judge approves BP plea agreement for Texas City blast
Texas City BP refinery after 2005 explosion showing the blow-down stack believed to be the source of the fire.
GALVESTON – A federal judge on March 12 gave the green light to a criminal plea deal that orders BP to pay $50 million for its role in the deadly March 2005 explosions at the London-based petroleum company's Texas City facility.
In addition to the fine, BP must serve three years of probation, ruled Judge Lee. H. Rosenthal.
Rosenthal's approval came after blast victims' unsuccessful appeal attempt to the U.S. Supreme Court.
It was delayed numerous times as Rosenthal held hearings in which blast victims and their attorneys, including Beaumont's Brent Coon, vigorously objected to the agreement as too low.
At the same time, a Galveston County District Court judge presided over hundreds of lawsuits filed against BP.
The cases were settled without deliberation among jurors.
The plaintiffs argued that the plea bargain between BP and the government, which was put together in October 2007, is too lenient.
They also expressed disappointment in how the deal was not discussed with them in accordance to the Crime Victims' Rights Act.
A daughter of a couple killed in the incident denounced Rosenthal's decision as "not right."
The oil major entered a guilty plea in February 2008 in response to allegations it violated the federal Clean Air Act.
In a March 13 article in The Galveston County Daily News, both prosecutors and BP defended the plea agreement as the harshest punishment available.
The company must continue to abide by safety standards put in place by federal and state regulators after the blasts while on probation.
BP said in a prepared statement it regrets the tragedy and vows to prevent a repeat of the incident which killed 15 and injured more than 170.
To date, the company has paid more than $1 billion in victim compensation and a fine of $21.4 million to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
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