BP appeals fines from Cherry Point fire

Published on Thu, Sep 20, 2012 by Brandy Kiger

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The BP Cherry Point Refinery will appeal all state citations and the $81,500 in fines resulting from the February 17, 2012 fire.

The mid-February blaze forced a two-month shutdown of the plant, halting production and inciting a spike in gasoline prices. The incident sparked the Department of Safety and Health (DOSH) to investigate the plant and incite six citations for violations, one of which was classified as willful. 

A willful violation is the most significant non-criminal citation issued by Labor and Industries (L&I). It’s used when L&I believes the violation was committed with “intentional disregard or plain indifference to substitution of judgment with respect to worker safety and health regulations.”

In a letter of appeal, BP claimed that they “did not violate the cited standard” in regards to their deadleg pipes, the source point of the Cherry Point fire earlier this year, or any of the other citations. 

“We respectfully disagree with the characterization of the violation being willful. We think it was mischaracterized, and think it is worth the appeal,” said BP spokesman Bill Kidd.

“This incident was a pipe rupture without warning and BP did not know, and did not have reason to suspect, that the piping in question was subject to significant risk of corrosion,” the letter from San Francisco attorney Jeffrey Tanenbaum stated.

The letter calls for an appeal of all citations and requests a “stay of abatement” that would allow the refinery to continue operations without implementing the recommended fixes. 

Kidd says that this is standard procedure, as they are still discussing whether the violations were really violations at all. “In reality, we’ve already taken a ton of action to ensure safety.”  

In regard to the citations, Kidd said that “they [L&I] probably strongly believe that what they did is appropriate. We strongly believe it is not.”