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

BP trims capital budget by $4-6 billion

02/03/2015 BP PLC plans an organic capital expenditure of $20 billion in 2015, down from the previous guidance $24-26 billion. Total organic capital expenditu...

EPA suggests DOS reconsider Keystone XL climate impact conclusions

02/03/2015 The US Department of State might want to reconsider its conclusions regarding potential climate impacts from the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pip...

Kerry expects to receive other agencies’ Keystone XL reports soon

02/02/2015 US Sec. of State John F. Kerry said he expects to receive other federal agencies and departments’ reports soon on the proposed Keystone XL crude oi...

Union strike under way at US refineries, petchem plants

02/02/2015 The United Steelworkers Union (USW) has instituted a strike at nine US refining and petrochemical production plants following a breakdown in negoti...

Victoria extends drilling, fracing ban

01/30/2015 The new Victorian Labor government of premier Daniel Andrews has extended the coal seam gas (CSG) exploration and hydraulic fracturing ban in the s...

US Senate passes bill approving Keystone XL pipeline project

01/30/2015 The US Senate has passed a bill approving construction of the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline by a 62-36 vote after 3 weeks of debate. Nine...

Pennsylvania governor reinstates state forest drilling moratorium

01/29/2015 Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) signed an executive order fully reinstating a 2010 moratorium on new oil and gas leases in state forests and parks. ...

DOE could meet 45-day LNG export decision deadline, Senate panel told

01/29/2015 The US Department of Energy would have no trouble meeting a 45-day deadline to reach a national interest determination for proposed LNG export faci...

PHMSA outlines community steps to reduce pipeline incident risks

01/27/2015 The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration released a guide to best practices for communities to reduce risks from pipeline inci...

White Papers

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

Squeezing the Green: How to Cut Petroleum Downstream Costs and Optimize Processing Efficiencies with Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solutions

As the downstream petroleum industry grapples with change in every sector and at every level, includin...
Sponsored by

7 Steps to Improve Oil & Gas Asset Decommissioning

Global competition and volatile markets are creating a challenging business climate for project based ...
Sponsored by

The impact of aging infrastructure in process manufacturing industries

Process manufacturing companies in the oil and gas, utilities, chemicals and natural resource industri...
Sponsored by

What is System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis?

This paper will explain some of the fundamentals of System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis and demonstrate...

Accurate Thermo-Fluid Simulation in Real Time Environments

The crux of any task undertaken in System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis is striking a balance between ti...

6 ways for Energy, Chemical and Oil and Gas Companies to Avert the Impending Workforce Crisis

As many as half of the skilled workers in energy, chemical and oil & gas industries are quickly he...
Sponsored by

Available Webcasts



Global LNG: Adjusting to New Realties

When Fri, Mar 20, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s March 20, 2015, webcast will look at how global LNG trade will be affected over the next 12-24 months by falling crude oil prices and changing patterns and pressures of demand. Will US LNG production play a role in balancing markets? Or will it add to a growing global oversupply of LNG for markets remote from easier natural gas supply? Will new buyers with marginal credit, smaller requirements, or great need for flexibility begin to look attractive to suppliers? How will high-cost, mega-projects in Australia respond to new construction cost trends?

register:WEBCAST


US Midstream at a Crossroads

When Fri, Mar 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Mar. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on US midstream companies at an inflection point in their development in response to more than 6 years shale oil and gas production growth. Major infrastructure—gas plants, gathering systems, and takeaway pipelines—have been built. Major fractionation hubs have expanded. Given the radically changed pricing environment since mid-2014, where do processors go from here? What is the fate of large projects caught in mid-development? How to producers and processors cooperate to ensure a sustainable and profitable future? This event will serve to set the discussion table for the annual GPA Convention in San Antonio, Apr. 13-16, 2015.

This event is sponsored by Leidos Engineering.

register:WEBCAST



On Demand

The Future of US Refining

Fri, Feb 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Feb. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on the future of US refining as various forces this year conspire to pull the industry in different directions. Lower oil prices generally reduce feedstock costs, but they have also lowered refiners’ returns, as 2015 begins with refined products priced at lows not seen in years. If lower per-barrel crude prices dampen production of lighter crudes among shale plays, what will happen to refiners’ plans to export more barrels of lighter crudes? And as always, refiners will be affected by government regulations, particularly those that suppress demand, increase costs, or limit access to markets or supply.

register:WEBCAST


Oil & Gas Journal’s Forecast & Review/Worldwide Pipeline Construction 2015

Fri, Jan 30, 2015

The  Forecast & Review/Worldwide Pipeline Construction 2015 Webcast will address Oil & Gas Journal’s outlooks for the oil market and pipeline construction in a year of turbulence. Based on two annual special reports, the webcast will be presented by OGJ Editor Bob Tippee and OGJ Managing Editor-Technology Chris Smith.
The Forecast & Review portion of the webcast will identify forces underlying the collapse in crude oil prices and assess prospects for changes essential to recovery—all in the context of geopolitical pressures buffeting the market.

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