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US hits BP with record safety fine

US regulators today hit oil giant BP with a record $87m (£53m) fine for failing to fix safety violations at its Texas City, Texas, refinery after a deadly 2005 explosion.

The 270 safety violations found at the nation's third largest refinery "could lead to another catastrophe" like the 2005 explosion that killed 15 workers and injured 180, said US Labor Secretary Hilda Solis on a conference call.

BP said it was disappointed by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration's decision to issue the fines before a commission can rule on the company's contention it has complied with an agreement to repair safety problems at the refinery.

"We continue to believe we are in full compliance with the settlement agreement, and we look forward to demonstrating that before the review commission," BP said. "While we strongly disagree with their conclusions, we will continue to work with the agency to resolve our differences."

In addition to the $87 million fine, BP already paid a $21.3 million fine in 2005 to OSHA and entered into a four-year agreement to fix safety violations at the Texas City refinery. As the agreement neared its end in September, OSHA warned the company that numerous problems remained.

BP has said it has invested more than $1 billion to repair safety problems at Texas City. The company has also paid more than $2 billion to settle civil lawsuits brought after the explosion, which also injured 180 people.

Earlier this year, BP paid a $50 million fine to the U.S. Justice Department to settle criminal charges stemming from the blast. The company was placed on three years' probation, a condition of which was fulfilling the agreement with OSHA.

An investigation by the US Chemical Safety Board found cost-cutting by BP amid pressure to meet production targets led to the explosion.