Mr. Chairman, thank you for convening this important hearing. The issue of safety at chemical facilities is an important one and the work of the Chemical Safety Board is contributing to the safety communities expect and deserve. I am especially heartened by the testimony being presented today that demonstrates the strides forward that are being made to ensure safety for the entire industry.
I am equally saddened, however, that these lessons are learned at such a terrible price. The incident at BP’s Texas City refinery was catastrophic. Sadly, 15 workers lost their lives and over 180 suffered injuries. The tragedy experienced by one of our witnesses today, Linda Hunnings, is one that no spouse should ever endure, and I wish to share my heartfelt condolences at her loss two years ago.
Nothing can ever replace Ms. Hunnings’s loss or those of many others whose loved ones were lost that day and in other accidents. But we can learn from them. In the investigation that followed that accident by the CSB and the independent Baker panel, much was learned to give us reason for great concern and also hope.
The Baker Panel found that all 5 of the BP refineries in the US had similar types of process safety issues that needed improvement.
That is simply unacceptable. Such a situation never should have occurred. Not only did it cause loss of life and put many more lives at risk, it impacted our nation’s energy supply.
Today the Texas City refinery still remains below its full capacity since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. At a time when Americans are already feeling the impact from high energy prices, we must prevent future accidents from happening because we can not afford to further tighten our gasoline supplies.
The accident also provides hope that lessons are being learned from this tragedy.
The need for worker personal safety has received much attention over the years and it is time that process safety issues receive equal attention. I am heartened that CEOs at other companies with better records are taking this issue seriously and examining their own operations to ensure minimal risk at their own facilities.
Workers and surrounding communities deserve a safe environment. It is my hope that this accident will serve as a significant event in moving our nation toward zero fatality workplaces in the future.