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THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: BP Pleads Guilty, But Judge Listens To Blast Victims

ASSOCIATED PRESS
February 5, 2008; Page A11

HOUSTON — Oil giant BP PLC formally entered a guilty plea yesterday as part of an agreement with federal prosecutors for its criminal conduct in a deadly explosion at its Texas City, Texas, plant in 2005. But a federal judge said she would listen to blast victims and their attorneys, who have been highly critical of the agreement, before deciding whether or not to accept the plea.

Texas City plant manager Keith Casey entered a guilty plea on behalf of BP. “The result is a terrible tragedy that could have been avoided. We deeply regret the choice we made and are profoundly sorry for the harm we caused,” said Mr. Casey, who wasn’t the plant manager at the time of the blast.

U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal was originally set in November to accept the oil giant’s guilty plea and the $50 million fine that goes with it. The London-based company would also be on probation for three years for its role in the explosion.

But several attorneys for victims of the blast, which killed 15 people and injured more than 170 others, objected, calling the proposed fine “trivial.” They also said the deal doesn’t push to improve safety at the plant or fully detail BP’s history of safety violations. The judge agreed to let them voice their complaints and delayed her decision on whether to accept the plea.

“I think this plea agreement stinks,” said Eva Rowe, whose parents, James and Linda Rowe, were killed in the blast. Ms. Rowe told Judge Rosenthal about how her mother’s body had to be identified through DNA testing because it was decapitated and badly burned.

Mr. Casey told Judge Rosenthal that BP has made the refinery safer by spending more than $1 billion in upgrades and doubling the amount of training.

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