Thursday, July 1, 2010

BP plans to get rid of safety watchdog, sources say

By Drew Griffin and David Fitzpatrick, CNN Special Investigations Unit
July 1, 2010 7:29 a.m. EDT

"Washington (CNN) -- BP has been trying to shut down an internal safety watchdog agency it set up under congressional pressure four years ago, according to sources close to the office and a leading congressman.

The Ombudsman Program was set up after a 2005 explosion at a BP refinery in Texas that killed 15 workers and a massive oil spill in Alaska the following year. Its chief, former federal judge Stanley Sporkin, would not comment for this story -- but a source inside his office told CNN, "I'm surprised we're still here."

The Washington-based office was set up to hear BP workers' safety concerns after investigations into the Texas City refinery explosion raised questions about whether employees feared retaliation for speaking up. Since then, 112 employees have filed complaints, and 35 of them have dealt with "system integrity or safety issues" that the office says are extremely serious.

But sources close to the office say BP doesn't like having independent investigators pursuing those complaints. A union representative told CNN that some workers who complained have faced retaliation. Jeanne Pascal, a former lawyer for the Environmental Protection Agency, agreed.

"They've been demoted, they've been terminated, they've also been blackballed," Pascal said." More>>>>

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