Engineering News

Texas City Plaintiffs Petition Supreme Court On Suit
Thursday, June 26, 2008

Plaintiffs who have been challenging the federal government's settlement over the 2005 BP PLC (BP) Texas City blast have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block lower courts from enforcing the $50 million agreement.

At issue, they say, is whether crime victims should have a voice in settlements involving crimes against them.

Over two years after the blast, BP and the U.S. Department of Justice reached a $50 million settlement in October 2007for alleged felony violations of the Clean Air Act. Under the agreement, BP admitted that its poor operation of the refinery led to the explosion, which killed 15 people, and injured over 170. The Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency approved the agreement in October.

Some victims felt that they had been denied their right to have a say in the agreement - a right they say is conferred upon them by the Crime Victim's Rights Act. They argue that BP should be forced to pay a heftier fine. Their qualms resulted in appeals as BP and the Department of Justice sought the necessary approval for the agreement.

The agreement received approval from the U.S. District Court, though some victims argued that they had been denied their right to have a say in the plea agreement.

An appellate court upheld the ruling this spring, sending the case back to the District Court.

Those injured in the blast are asking the Supreme Court to require the circuit court to postpone any final decision in the case until the higher court is able to review the case. Given the court's calendar, this will likely wait until the fall.

The petition will be reviewed by Justice Antonin Scalia, who is responsible for all emergency petitions from the Fifth Circuit. The U.S. District Court will then have a chance to respond. The Supreme Court just recessed for the summer.

Because the issue is now between the court and the victims, BP is no longer a party to the suit. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The 12 people seeking the Supreme Court's intervention were injured in the blast.

Source: Dow Jones Newswires

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