Tuesday, September 02, 2008

British Petroleum Explosion Lawsuits Finally Settled

Remember the horrendous refinery explosion at the British Petroleum refinery in March 2005? The one that killed 15 and injured over 170? The explosion caused by this chain of events as summarized in this AP article?

“The explosion occurred after a blowdown drum overfilled with highly flammable liquid hydrocarbons. They ignited at the startup of the isomerization unit — a device that boosts the octane in gasoline. Alarms and gauges that were supposed to warn of the overfilled equipment did not work properly.”
Well the last claim in a grand total of 4162 claims was settled today in the courtroom of Judge Susan Criss of the 212th District Court. Except for one appeal of a dismissed claim, this thing is done.

A lot of good has come out of these cases. And Texas refineries are now safer places for people to work because of this. So while the loss of life is tragic, as well as the suffering of the injured, the world is now a slightly better place to live because these people stood up to BP and demanded change.

And change they got.

And change we all got.

First, lots of change to the suffering, and lots of change to those who lost their loved ones in the explosion. Change that has dead presidents printed on it.

Of paramount importance for the rest of us is that refineries are voluntarily instituting, as a direct result of these lawsuits, safety reform. Some new safety standards have become a part of collective bargaining agreements. Refineries are safer as a result of these lawsuits.

But in addition to that we have some claimants to thank for including in their settlements some additional conditions, which are being fulfilled, $30 million worth of conditions. From Judge Criss:

“Donations were made to the Burns Unit of the University of Texas Medical Branch, the Texas A&M on Galveston Island Process Safety Center Program and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. A Safety Training Development Center was created at College of the Mainland. A college scholarship program was established In Hornbeck, Louisiana.”.

Republicans argue for torte reform whenever it comes up. Tort reform protects the corporations from being accountable when they misbehave. This is just another example of how torte reform is a sham. Smoke and mirrors.

Keep corporations accountable. Keep our workplaces safe places.

Just say “No” to tort reform.

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