Dingell, Stupak launch inquiry into DOJ plea agreement with BP

Two leading Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced an investigation into the Department of Justice's Oct. 22 plea agreement with BP concerning the company's violations of federal Clean Air Act provisions.

"We have examined the plea agreement with respect to BP's admitted criminal conduct that led to the March 23, 2005, explosion at its Texas City refinery, which killed 15 and injured more than 70 workers," Reps. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), the committee's chairman, and Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), who chairs its Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, said in a March 12 letter to US Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey.

"We question whether DOJ has followed congressional intent by recommending this plea agreement since it does not appear to either protect the safety of workers and residents near this refinery or ensure that a proper signal is sent to BP's senior management whose budgeting decisions led to this tragedy," they continued.

Under the agreement, BP subsidiary BP Products North America agreed to plead guilty to a single count of violating the Clean Air Act, pay a $50 million criminal fine and serve three years of probation. The criminal fine was the largest ever assessed for a Clean Air Act violation, DOJ said in announcing the plea agreement on Oct. 25. It added that during the probation, the company will have to spend an additional estimated $265 million to complete facility-wide relief valve studies and renovations of its flare systems.

"We also have questions about whether DOJ has fulfilled its responsibilities to victims. In particular, we want to understand whether DOJ met its obligation to give victims a timely opportunity to confer before it negotiated a plea agreement, as required by the attorney general's guidelines," Dingell and Stupak said.

They asked Mukasey and DOJ to respond to five basic questions:

Did decisions made by BP Plc., the parent company, aid and abet non-compliance by BP Products North America, which Dingell and Stupak described as "a fourth-tier subsidiary," at Texas City and, if so, did the executives have culpability, and should they have been held to account?

By charging the subsidiary instead of the corporate parent, did DOJ consider the totality of BP's corporate misconduct when assessing "the history and characteristics of the defendant" as part of the criminal penalty process?

Why didn't the plea agreement mandate future Clean Air Act compliance in addition to settlement agreement with the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality? Dingell and Stupak noted that on Jan. 14, a 32-year employee at the Texas City refinery was killed when a 500-pound steel lit was suddenly and violently blown from a vessel that was connected to an ultracracker which was being restarted, and that the US Chemical Safety Board is investigating the accident.

Is a $50 million criminal fine an adequate deterrent to future noncompliance?

Did DOJ evade the purposes and intent of the Crime Victims Rights Act and the attorney general's victims and witness assistance guidelines?

Dingell and Stupak asked Mukasey and DOJ to provide responses within 10 days, as well as documents which DOJ and the US Environmental Protection Agency prepared concerning benefits to BP in not complying to federal regulations at the refinery, communications regarding efforts to notify victims before plea negotiations were completed, and documents regarding possible consolidation of press announcements regarding this felony plea with a deferred prosecution plea of a BP propane price fixing case and a misdemeanor plea stemming from North Sea crude oil pipeline leaks in 2006.

The committee does not expect any documents which were prepared for a grand jury, the lawmakers said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

Related Articles

PHMSA proposes pipeline accident notification regulations

07/02/2015 The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has proposed new federal oil and gas pipeline accident and notification regulations. ...

Quicksilver Canada gets LNG export approval

07/02/2015 Quicksilver Resources Canada Inc. has received approval from the National Energy Board of Canada to export 20 million tonnes/year of LNG from a pos...

Origin lets contract for Otway basin fields

07/02/2015 Origin Energy Ltd., Sydney, has let a $1.3 million (Aus.) contract to Wood Group Kenny for provision of a detailed engineering design for the onsho...

Puma Energy completes purchase of Murco’s UK refinery, terminals

07/02/2015 Singapore-based Puma Energy Group Pte. has completed its purchase of UK midstream and downstream assets from Murco Petroleum Ltd., a subsidiary of ...

BP to settle federal, state Deepwater Horizon claims for $18.7 billion

07/02/2015 BP Exploration & Production Inc. has agreed in principle to settle all federal and state claims arising from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon inciden...

API to issue recommended practice to address pipeline safety

07/01/2015 The American Petroleum Institute expects to issue a new recommended practice in another few weeks that addresses pipeline safety issues, but the tr...

Shell Midstream Partners takes interest in Poseidon oil pipeline

07/01/2015 Shell Midstream Partners LP has completed its acquisition of 36% equity interest in Poseidon Oil Pipeline Co. LLC from Equilon Enterprises LLC, a s...

Shell makes FID on Appomattox deepwater development in Gulf of Mexico

07/01/2015 Royal Dutch Shell PLC has taken a final investment decision (FID) on the Appomattox deepwater development, authorizing construction and installatio...

Woodside-led Browse FLNG venture enters FEED phase

07/01/2015 The Woodside Petroleum Ltd.-led Browse LNG joint venture has entered the front-end engineering and design phase for a floating LNG (FLNG) developme...
White Papers

UAS Integration for Infrastructure: More than Just Flying

Oil and gas companies recognize the benefits that the use of drones or unmanned aerial systems (UAS) c...

Solutions to Financial Distress Resulting from a Weak Oil and Gas Price Environment

The oil and gas industry is in the midst of a prolonged worldwide downturn in commodity prices. While ...
Sponsored by

2015 Global Engineering Information Management Solutions Competitive Strategy Innovation and Leadership Award

The Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Awards recognise companies in a variety of regional and global...
Sponsored by

Three Tips to Improve Safety in the Oil Field

Working oil fields will always be tough work with inherent risks. There’s no getting around that. Ther...
Sponsored by

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by
Available Webcasts


The Resilient Oilfield in the Internet of Things World

When Tue, Sep 22, 2015

As we hear about the hype surrounding the Internet of Things, the oil and gas industry is questioning what is different than what is already being done. What is new?  Using sensors and connecting devices is nothing new to our mode of business and in many ways the industry exemplifies many principles of an industrial internet of things. How does the Internet of Things impact the oil and gas industry?

Prolific instrumentation and automation digitized the industry and has changed the approach to business models calling for a systems led approach.  Resilient Systems have the ability to adapt to changing circumstances while maintaining their central purpose.  A resilient system, such as Maximo, allows an asset intensive organization to leverage connected devices by merging real-time asset information with other critical asset information and using that information to create a more agile organization.  

Join this webcast, sponsored by IBM, to learn how about Internet of Things capabilities and resilient systems are impacting the landscape of the oil and gas industry.

register:WEBCAST



On Demand

Taking the Headache out of Fuel License and Exemption Certificates: How to Ensure Compliance

Tue, Aug 25, 2015

This webinar, brought to you by Avalara, will detail the challenges of tax document management, as well as recommend solutions for fuel suppliers. You will learn:

-    Why it’s critical to track business partner licenses and exemption documents
-    The four key business challenges of ensuring tax compliance through document management
-    Best practice business processes to minimize exposure to tax errors

register:WEBCAST


Driving Growth and Efficiency with Deep Insights into Operational Data

Wed, Aug 19, 2015

Capitalizing on today’s momentum in Oil & Gas requires operational excellence based on a clear view of what your business data is telling you. Which is why nearly half* of oil and gas companies have deployed SAP HANA or have it on their roadmap.

Join SAP and Red Hat to learn more about using data to drive process improvements and identify new opportunities with the SAP HANA platform running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. This webinar will also show how your choice of infrastructure impacts the performance of core business applications and your ability to achieve data-driven insights quickly and reliably.

*48% use SAP, http://go.sap.com/solution/industry/oil-gas.html

register:WEBCAST


OGJ's Midyear Forecast 2015

Fri, Jul 10, 2015

This webcast is to be presented by OGJ Editor Bob Tippee and Senior Economic Editor Conglin Xu.  They will summarize the Midyear Forecast projections in key categories, note important changes from January’s forecasts, and examine reasons for the adjustments.

register:WEBCAST


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected