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The Guardian: Texas City fire: judge rules BP chief Browne must testify

Terry Macalister
Monday October 9, 2006

Lord Browne, the chief executive of BP, has been told by a US judge that he must give personal testimony in a case arising out of the Texas City Refinery fire last year in which 15 people died and scores were injured.

The move came as oil prices were set to move upwards again this morning, after more ministers from the Opec cartel said they would support a production cut of 1m barrels a day.

Britain’s biggest company confirmed the US ruling and said it was “considering our next step”, although it declined to say whether it would appeal against the judgment.
BP has apologised for the disaster, and settled many of the cases brought against it by relatives of those who died. But it still has a range of outstanding cases – including the one that requires Lord Browne’s personal involvement. The oil executive, who has recently announced plans to retire in 2008, must devote hours of his time to answering questions in person from US prosecutors.

Lawyers are expected to fly to London in the next three weeks to take the sworn testimony, which will be tape-recorded and played back in court during the personal injury case.

The plaintiffs are claiming punitive damages against the company, alleging gross negligence at Texas City.

The legal assault continues as a special panel – led by the former US secretary of state James Baker – reviews the whole of BP’s downstream operations to see whether safety could be improved. The panel is scheduled to report next month. BP faced earlier calls for Lord Browne to be personally questioned over Texas City, which it strongly resisted. The previous request was withdrawn, but the latest one could also face objections from the company.

Industry experts said the move was probably aimed at putting pressure on the chief executive to settle outstanding cases.

Meanwhile, Iran – Opec’s second- biggest producer – and Algeria said yesterday they would support a plan to reduce the cartel’s output in a bid to lift the price of oil after it fell below $60 a barrel on Friday.,,1890972,00.html and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

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