Worker safety at BP
The New York Times today reported that British Petroleum is expected to settle accusations of criminal responsibility for the explosion and fire of 1990 that killed 15 workers and injured 80 more. Government officials report that they will continue to investigate the responsibility of BP executives. BP reported 4.4 billion dolars in profit for the most recent quarter, beating analyst expectations and proving that crime can pay if lives are cheap and we don't include environmental degradation in the equation. Perhaps that equation will be re-balanced eventually, as BP faces more than 1,000 civil lawsuits for injuries and property damage, and the company has already set aside nearly 2 billion dollars to satisfy the claims.
Earlier in the year, a federal safety panel attributed the explosion to safety deficiencies "at all levels" of the plant and found that the BP executives had ignored warning signs of impending disaster. BP has pledged to spend a billion dollars to remedy safety problems at the Texas City plant. To date, no one has reported that the Bush Administration intends to introduce legislation to protect American refineries from frivolous lawsuits, but that step wouldn't surprise us. That seems to be the next step whenever a negligent contributor to the incumbents finds itself facing legal exposure of a level that makes it uncomfortable.
Next thing you know, we'll find out that BP actually earned higher profits after the output of this refinery was cut in half by the explosion: because the huge reduction in supply increased prices in the industry and paying workers comp to the maimed and widowed was cheaper than paying to actually produce oil.