May 30, 2008
By BRAD HEM
GALVESTON — Safety has improved at the BP refinery since a 2005 explosion that killed 15, the plant manager testified this morning in a civil trial arising from that disaster.
"There's more to do, but we've made progress," testified Keith Casey, who said he was brought in to change the safety culture at the refinery following the 2005 disaster.
He said the plant lost $1 billion in 2007 and continues to lose money because it has been only partially operational since the blast.
Casey testified in the trial of lawsuits brought by 10 men who allege they were hurt in the explosion and four of their wives. They are suing BP for $950 million for physical injuries and mental anguish. The amount is equal to one year's profits at the refinery at the time of the blast, plaintiffs attorney Brent Coon has said.
Coon and plaintiffs attorney Lance Lubel repeatedly questioned Casey about events leading up to the blast and steps BP could have taken prevent it.
Although Casey didn't work at the refinery until last year, he entered a guilty plea on behalf of BP for felony violations of the federal Clean Air Act relating to to the blast. A Houston federal judge has yet to accept or reject the plea deal between BP and federal prosecutors.
It calls for BP to pay a $50 million fine. But some victims are challenging the fine as insufficient.