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BP faces hundreds of claims over explosion


GALVESTON, Texas—BP Products North America Inc.'s settlement with the daughter of two workers killed in a 2005 plant explosion includes funds that the woman hopes will be used to help prevent such accidents.

BP agreed earlier this month to pay an undisclosed amount to Eva Rowe, whose parents were killed when an explosion at the company's Texas City, Texas, refinery left 15 workers dead and more than 170 people injured. The settlement included at least $32 million to be paid to universities and other institutions involved in safety education and health care.

The Rowe case settled just as legal proceedings were beginning in Galveston, Texas.

BP has set aside $1.6 billion to settle claims related to the March 2005 explosion, a spokesman in the oil company's Houston office confirmed. He said the payments are being made from self-insurance funds to those injured in the blast and family members of those who were killed.

So far, "there have been more than 1,000, and the number is changing," the spokesman said of claims related to the accident. "The majority have already settled or are close to settling," he said.

A spokesman for Ms. Rowe's attorney, Brent Coon of Coon & Associates in Beaumont, Texas, confirmed that Ms. Rowe settled the case partly because of BP's commitment to fund safety and health care programs at facilities in Texas, Louisiana and Tennessee.

The settlement calls for Texas A&M University in College Station and the University of Texas in Austin to each receive $12.5 million, while the College of the Mainland in Texas City will get $5 million. BP also has agreed to match outside donations until the portion of the settlement directed toward universities and other institutions reaches $38 million.

Texas A&M said the funds it receives will be used to strengthen programs offered through its Mary Kay O'Connor Process Safety Center, the school's safety engineering certificate program, and its engineering ethics courses.

BP's payment illustrates the company's "commitment to workplace safety in the chemical engineering industry," Ed Davis, president of the Texas A&M Foundation, said in a statement. The money will "help transform a tragedy into a positive legacy, help educate a new generation of engineers, and help improve safety performance in the industry."

A spokesman for the College of the Mainland said the $5 million it will receive comes on top of around $500,000 in equipment and money BP has contributed over the years to the school's process safety program.

The University of Texas Medical Branch will receive the funds paid to that university under the settlement. The money will be used to further the facility's efforts to improve the survival rate of burn victims, said Art Sanford, assistant professor of surgery at the Galveston branch of the school. "We also work on rehabilitation and help integrate them into society," he said of burn victims.

The settlement with Ms. Rowe also included a $1 million donation to The Cancer Center at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., and $1 million to schools in Hornbeck, La., where Ms. Rowe attended schools and her mother taught before working at the BP plant.