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BP agrees to oversee safety issues for fishermen, letter says

By Scott Zamost, CNN
  • Letter: BP will ensure safety of fisherman and others that work with them
  • Letter: BP will ensure that federal safety guidelines are met
  • Lawyer for fisherman says letter will lead to agreement with BP that could happen Thursday

New Orleans, Louisiana (CNN) -- BP has formally agreed to take responsibility for ensuring fishermen and other contract workers comply with federal safety guidelines as the massive oil spill clean-up continues in the Gulf, according to a letter obtained by CNN.

The letter, dated June 16, states that BP is "committed to the safety and well-being of all employees and contractors who are performing clean-up activities in response to the Deepwater Horizon incident."

Specifically, the company said it "will comply with all applicable OSHA and (Coast Guard) regulations, and to the extent it enters into contracts with such response contractors, BP will require those contractors and their subcontractors to comply" with the same regulations.

The letter goes on to state that BP will "meet or exceed the environmental monitoring protocols for worker safety that have been established in coordination with federal and state regulators."

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It said BP will make the monitoring data public after providing the results to government agencies.

The letter was written by a BP attorney to attorneys representing fishermen in the Gulf who were affected by the oil spill, and are now involved in the clean-up.

Thomas Bilek, a Houston attorney representing the fishermen, said the agreement with BP is expected to be formalized on Thursday morning during a federal court hearing in New Orleans.

"The significance is we are trying to make BP take some responsibility for maintaining safety for the fishermen, and make sure they are not being sent into areas that are unsafe, and BP is monitoring the area before they are being sent," Bilek told CNN.

Bilek said the fishermen are now following safety guidelines on their own, but with this agreement, BP is responsible for ensuring that federal safety rules are being met.

"It is expressly understood that response contractors may do their own worker exposure monitoring," the letter states. "BP will request that any such contractors provide such exposure monitoring to BP for handling as described above, and BP will not retaliate against any response contractors for doing their own exposure monitoring."