Big Problems at Texas City

Stephen Beard Mar 20, 2007
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Big Problems at Texas City

Stephen Beard Mar 20, 2007
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

SCOTT JAGOW: Today, a chemical safety board hands out its final report on BP’s oil refinery explosion in 2005. It was the worst U.S. industrial accident in decades. Fifteen people died at the Texas City refinery. In BP’s home country of Britain, this is a top story this morning. Our Correspondent Stephen Beard joins us from London. Good morning, Stephen.

STEPHEN BEARD: Good morning Scott.

JAGOW: We’ve heard a lot of reports about this explosion because of the magnitude of it. What exactly is the weight of this report?

BEARD: Well this is the big one. As you say, we’ve had lots of interim reports from the chemical safety board, but the report published today is indeed the definitive one and we’ve had an indication that it’s going to be extremely critical. The head of the board, Carolyn Merritt, was quoted as saying that she found BP’s safety culture “terrifying.”

JAGOW: Well what exactly is BP worried about that might be in this report?

BEARD: Well the killer finding, and this is the finding that most of the press here suggest will be in this report, is that there was a link between the cost-cutting at BP and the poor level of maintenance which led to the explosion and fire at Texas City. And furthermore that executives had been warned that the cost-cutting was jeopardizing safety, but pressed ahead nevertheless. This would constitute a pretty damning indictment of senior management at BP because it was on this cost-cutting that their reputations and, more to the point, their bonuses were based.

JAGOW: You quoted the woman who heads the chemical safety board as using the word terrifying. Do you get the sense in covering this story over the past few months that BP fully acknowledges and understands how bad this was?

BEARD: I think they do now. This has been a major problem and caused a huge upheaval at the company. The senior executive Lord Browne has left early. There’s no doubt and as we’ve said the company’s spending huge amounts of money to try and improve safety. I’m told there is something like a cultural revolution underway. I mean as we know BP stands for British Petroleum but in fact here in London those initials in recent months have stood for Big Problem.

JAGOW: OK Stephen thank you.

BEARD: OK Scott.

JAGOW: Our European correspondent Stephen Beard.

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