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BP questioned over safety at Alaskan oilfield (7/10)

July 10, 2007

BP is under the safety microscope again, this time for alleged lapses in its Alaskan oilfield.

The Financial Times reports that Congressman George Miller, chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Education and Labor, is demanding BP's immediate response to charges of safety lapses in the oilfield, including putting non-essential workers inside blast zones.

Miller is also raising charges by Chuck Hamel, a long-time advocate for BP workers in Alaska, that the company's Central Gas Facility, which was designed and built to operate safely with no more than 5bn cubic feet of gas under pressure, is functioning at 9.2bn cubic feet.

Miller also said there were charges that the field had a dysfunctional flare system and had turned off its antiquated fire-suppression system during work to monitor corrosion.

Locating non-essential workers in the blast zone and keeping an outdated, dysfunctional flare system were factors in the deadly explosion at BP's Texas refinery in 2005 — an incident that has put BP’s safety practices under heavy scrutiny.

That accident coupled with a spill and severe corrosion at BP's Alaskan field have led Congress to hold repeated hearings on the UK oil company as they investigate its U.S. operations, according to the Times.

"This committee continues to be concerned about workplace safety conditions at this nation's refineries and other facilities,'' Miller wrote to Bob Malone, president of BP's American operations, in a letter June 30.