CPR President Rena Steinzor in the Houston Chronicle: Criminal investigations crucial to making refineries safer

by Erin Kesler

Last Friday marked the 10 year anniversary of the BP Texas City Refinery explosion that killed 15 people and injured 170 others.

In an opinion piece for the Houston Chronicle, CPR President Rena Steinzor describes the systemic failures which led to the explosion and the regulatory gaps that remain. She calls for criminal investigations, "everytime refinery operations kill, maim, or threaten public health."

She notes:

BP executive Ross Pillari blamed low-level workers for not "doing their jobs." Yet some of the men stationed at the tower had worked 12-hour shifts for 29 consecutive days, as required by BP policy. The company fired six of them, in effect reinforcing the perception that human error, as opposed to systemic mismanagement, was to blame. This spin was refuted by the evidence.

Several weeks before the explosion, Texas City plant manager Don Parus prepared a PowerPoint containing pictures of men killed in accidents on site and showed it to BP senior executives John Manzoni and Michael Hoffman. Parus had also commissioned a consulting firm to survey employees about safety. It reported that "[w]e have never seen a site where the notion, 'I could die today,' was so real."

Post-explosion reports by the Baker panel, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, an internal BP review team, and investigative reporting by ProPublica and the Center for Public Integrity, ratified these fears.

To read the full piece, click here.

© 2016 The Center for Progressive Reform