Sunday, April 30, 2006

Grand jury probing '05 BP Texas blast -reports

Grand jury probing '05 BP Texas blast -reports

Sun Apr 30, 5:51 PM ET

A U.S. grand jury is probing the deadly 2005 blast that claimed 15 lives at BP Plc.'s giant Texas refinery, according to reports in two Texas newspapers.

The Galveston County Daily News and The Houston Chronicle said federal prosecutors filed motions in state and federal court late last week seeking to limit lawyers for blast victims suing BP from obtaining documents and discussing the federal investigation with witnesses.

State and federal judges will have to rule on the motions before they can take effect.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined BP a record $21.3 million in September for over 300 safety violations discovered during the investigation of the March 23, 2005 explosion at BP's Texas City, Texas, refinery.

After the fine was levied, OSHA turned the case over to the U.S. Justice Department for investigation of possible criminal violations.

BP has paid over $492 million to settle claims from people injured and relatives of those killed in the blast.

Some lawsuits stemming from the explosion are set to go to trial in the fall.

BP has claimed responsibility for the blast. An internal investigation found employees and supervisors failed to follow written procedures in restarting an octane-enhancing unit.

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board continues to probe the explosion and has pointed to nonworking monitoring equipment and fatigued workers among factors that may have contributed to the blast.

On Tuesday, OSHA recommended a $2.4 million fine against BP for safety violations found at an Ohio refinery that the agency said were like those that led to the Texas City explosion.

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