Federal agency says cost-cutting a factor in fatal BP refinery explosion

Ooh, what a little belt-tightening can do: a new federal review says cost-cutting by BP contributed to the 2005 refinery explosion in Texas City, Texas, that killed 15 workers and injured 180 others. Carolyn Merritt, chair of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, says the corporation implemented a 25 percent cut that affected infrastructure and maintenance, despite knowing safety problems existed. “At an aging facility like Texas City, it is not responsible to cut budgets related to safety and maintenance without thoroughly examining the impact on the risk of a catastrophic accident,” Merritt said. For its part, BP — which has settled with all but one of the families of workers killed in the accident and will defend its actions in a case scheduled to begin next week — claims that it actually boosted maintenance spending in the years before the explosion and had seen a 70 percent decrease in workplace injuries, which “led the company to believe that conditions at the refinery were improving,” said BP spokesperson Ronnie Chappell. And if by “improving” he meant “exploding,” they were right on the money.