BP, reeling from Gulf oil spill, socked with worker-safety fines in Washington state

  The same oil company whose offshore well in the Gulf of Mexico caused America’s largest oil spill in decades also was fined $69,200 this week by Washington regulators for serious safety violations at its refinery near Bellingham.

  The state imposed the fine on BP — which has sought to win public favor with its green-tinged “Beyond Petroleum” advertising campagn — for violations at its Cherry Point refinery.

  Workers could have been killed or injured as a result of the 13 “serious safety violations”  inspectors uncovered, says Hector Castro, spokesman for the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I), which levied the fines. There are three levels of violations, with “serious” being the most severe.

  Many of the safety issues spelled out in the 44-page violation report were first identified by BP but not corrected, Castro earlier told public radio reporter Austin Jenkins.

  For example, a pressure safety valve “was venting in an area where employees could be exposed to flammable vapor. Their own recommendations from their own audits were it should be vented into a flare system so that it would be burned off. And what we found was that there’d been no action taken,” Castro told Jenkins.

  BP spokesman Bill Kidd downplayed that characterization in an interview with the PostGlobe, saying the pressure-safety valve issue is “not so much an imminent hazard…There are not vapors venting on employees.” He said his company hasn’t had time to assess whether to appeal the fines, as decision that has to be made in a matter of days. Kidd said his company needs to work with L&I to understand some of the issues raised in the state’s citations.

 “Our main focus is to work with them to understand what the gaps are,” Kidd said. He didn’t outright dispute the report (it’s “not that we disagree necessarily,” he said), but he calls safety the company’s top priority.

  According to a state press release:

  The inspection focused on the hydrocracker process unit, the refinery’s largest process unit, which refines low-grade oil into gasoline. Twelve of the violations involve regulations governing the management of highly hazardous chemicals, which are part of what is commonly referred to as the Process Safety Management Standard. One of the violations involves a failure to provide proper machine guarding.

 The 12 process safety management problems included failure to routinely inspect or maintain safety control devices, such as pressure safety valves; inaccurate or outdated instrument diagrams; and failure to record whether identified safety hazards were corrected. One violation noted that there were 38 instances of safety recommendations for which there was no record they were ever implemented.

  “The safety violations our inspectors uncovered at BP were problems similar to those we’ve uncovered in all of the refineries we have inspected in Washington,” said Michael Silverstein, assistant director for L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health. “Petroleum refineries are inherently risky work environments, and following the safety regulations is the key to preventing explosions and other life-threatening events.”

  BP Cherry Point separately has attracted criticism from environmentalists, as when the company  doubled its refinery dock capacity next to the state’s once largest and genetically unique herring beds. That prompted environmentalist Fred Felleman, Northwest consultant for Friends of the Earth,  to successfully sue in 2006 to require an oil-spill risk assessment. The Army Corps of Engineers has yet to release the study. Meanwhile, the company’s expanded dock already is in operation.

  “If only BP spent as much money on environmental compliance as they did on PR, the world would be a safer and cleaner place. Now they only wish they were ‘Beyond Petroleum,’ but to me they have always been ‘Beyond Pathetic,'” Felleman said after hearing of the L&I fines this week.



2 Responses to BP, reeling from Gulf oil spill, socked with worker-safety fines in Washington state

  • John Wright:

    Piggy Oil Companies:
    I do not think oil companies clean up the oil because they care about the environment. I think they just want the oil back! If our economy gets any worse, we are just going to look at an oil spill as an opportunity for cheaper gas. We will all drive down with our tanks and clean it up ourselves. However, to add insult to injury, the oil companies only have to spend up to 75 million for the clean up. Which I am sure they will just make it back by charging us more at the pump. Leaving them with zero accountability. Let me guess, the American Tax Payer has to pay anything that goes over 75 million? THAT’S CALLED A BAIL OUT! Apparently, the oil companies are also too big to fail. I think there should be a law that says that oil companies have to give American’s free gas that is equivalent to whatever they spilt. Now that sounds more fair to me! However, they instead make a 10 BILLION DOLLAR profit. When gas went up in the 90s, President Clinton responded “It looks like someone is playing politics.” Who knows, maybe that was the day that a law being passed that stipulated they had to pay more than 75 million. Maybe they rose the gas rates to remind the President that they have the power to create and economic crisis, with one stroke of a pen. HOW DARE THESE OIL PIGGIES HOLD OUR PRESIDENTS AND THE AMERICAN ECONOMY HOSTAGE WITH THREATS OF ECONOMIC SABOTAGE!

    Piggy Banks:
    But there is a bigger spill on the horizon my friend. This spill is going to effect every coast line in America. It is called the GREAT FORECLOSURE SPILL! It will also keep bubbling and bubbling and bubbling foreclosures. It is still going to happen, even though the American Tax Payer funded TARP with a potential 581 BILLION DOLLARS as BAIL OUT money to the piggy banks. I mean if the government is in the lending business, why not have just loaned it to the American homeowner directly? I mean these piggy banks caused the whole mortgage crisis in the first place. TARP gave one bank $45 BILLION DOLLARS! Now that bank is potentially “playing politics” with the modification process. While dealing with the piggy banks, President Obama and Bush had the same look of fear on their face as President Clinton did with the oil companies.

    I dedicate to both the Piggy Oil Companies and Piggy Banks the following song by George Harrision and John Lennon. Appropriately titled “Piggies” I invite you to listen to it on youtube as you read the words


    Have you seen the little piggies
    Crawling in the dirt
    And for all the little piggies
    Life is getting worse
    Always having dirt to play around in.

    Have you seen the bigger piggies
    In their starched white shirts
    You will find the bigger piggies
    Stirring up the dirt
    Always have clean shirts to play around in.

    In their ties with all their backing
    They don’t care what goes on around
    In their eyes there’s something lacking
    What they need’s a damn good whacking.

    Everywhere there’s lots of piggies
    Living piggy lives
    You can see them out for dinner
    With their piggy wives
    Clutching forks and knives to eat their bacon.


    You can read my story or show your support in your comments at: Unitedlawgroup.com
    under the John Wright vs. Bank of America Lawsuit

    Please send an email to BofA CEO with “I SUPPORT JOHN WRIGHT VS. BANK OF AMERICA”: brian.t.moynihan@bankofamerica.com


  • Bango Tango:

    “Socked With” worker safety fines of $69,200– that’s something akin to a mosquito biting a hippo when you compare the fine to their bottom line.