BP Settlements Seen on Horizon

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BP Settlements Seen on Horizon

WASHINGTON -- BP, which has been afflicted with costly legal problems this year, is preparing to settle cases that accuse it of being criminally indifferent to worker safety and manipulating energy prices, sources involved told The New York Times.

Officials with one case said as early as this week, the Justice Department would announce that BP agreed to settle, to stop criminal investigations caused by an explosion at BP's oil refinery in Texas City two years ago, the report stated. The accident killed 15 and injured 180, and was the deadliest industrial accident since 1990, according to the newspaper.

The settlement signals the government's ability to forcefully make companies address environmental and worker safety problems, the Times reported. However, officials told the newspaper that accusations would remain against BP executives, which claim they failed to take precautionary measures to prevent the accident, and that those investigations would continue, the report stated.

The settlement does not end all of the company's problems relating to the explosion. More than 1,000 civil lawsuits have been filed, and the company has set aside $1.6 billion for compensation claims, the Times reported. It also committed $1 billion to fix problems at the facility, the report stated.

Meanwhile, BP is also preparing to settle a case that accused its energy trading unit of manipulating prices in the propane market three years ago, the report stated.

The settlement would resolve a complaint filed by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. It accused the company of inflating costs in 2004 for millions of Americans through the manipulation of propane gas prices, according to the report.

Spokesmen at BP, the Justice Department and the futures trading commission declined to comment to the Times about the planned settlement announcements.