Tuesday AM January 16th, 2007

Independent Safety Review Panel report on BP Texas City explosions due out today...AT&T dropping Cingular brand name...BP Alternative Energy North America plans five wind power generation projects in Texas and three other states...

The BP U.S. Refineries Independent Safety Review Panel will release its report in a news conference this morning here in Houston. The panel looked at BP's corporate oversight of safety management systems at its U.S. refineries and its corporate safety culture. The panel was chaired by former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker III. The 11-member panel was created by BP at the recommendation of the U.S Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board after the March 23rd, 2005 accident at the BP refinery in Texas City. Panelists have conducted public meetings at each of BP's five U.S. refineries, interviewing hundreds of BP employees and conducting process safety technical reviews.


AT&T is dropping the six-year-old Cingular brand name, now referring to its wireless service as Wireless from AT&T. Dan Feldstein with Fleishman-Hillard for AT&T says the 51 Houston-area Cingular stores will be placing temporary banners in their windows showing the change, and permanent signage will be up over the next few months.

"Physically you will start to notice temporary signs up in the front of our many Cingular stores around town, and over the next two to three months, you will notice AT&T signs going up. The employees in the retail stores will be now wearing AT&T-branded shirts instead of Cingular, and you should see some pretty cool advertisement on various media in town."

The transition advertising will include Web sites, company buildings and vehicles. The San Antonio-based company is taking these actions following its merger with BellSouth late last year.

"This is tied into the merger of AT&T and BellSouth. The companies co-owned Cingular, and as they became one company based out of San Antonio, AT&T became the sole owner of Cingular, and that's when it began to make sense to use the AT&T name."

Feldstein says customers will continue to see existing Cingular product and service names until all necessary legal and regulatory name-change filings are complete.

Meanwhile, some northeast Ohio homeowners and communities are at odds with AT&T over cabinets the company built in front of residences. The San Antonio-based company erected the boxes to expand a telecommunications project. Critics say the metal boxes make the areas look bad. Others have concerns that the boxes are a potential safety hazard. An AT&T spokeswoman says company officials are sensitive to such concerns and they try to compromise. AT&T built the boxes on tree lawns as part of its Project Lightspeed. The 13-state project will extend fiber-optic cable into neighborhoods and add video services to telephone and high-speed Internet options. Leaders of some cities fear the boxes could lower property values or pose a safety threat--such as concealing children, who then dart into the street.


The Spanish-language San Antonio-based newspaper chain Meximerica Media has reduced frequency of publication for its Houston edition of Rumbo. The daily newspaper is now publishing as a weekly, following a similar move with the San Antonio and Rio Grande Valley editions of the paper. The company says the weekly format responds to Hispanic buying trends, which are heavily on weekend editions. Rumbo has a circulation of 100,000 in Houston.


Texas is among 14 states that fund corridor service that Amtrak might not otherwise provide. Senators Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Trent Lott of Mississippi are expected to announce legislation that would encourage more state investment in Amtrak by making federal matching funds available. The sweeping bill calls for $12 billion in federal funding for the next six years. The idea of matching funds for state investment in Amtrak is one that both supporters and critics of the railroad have embraced.


A ConocoPhillips announcement that it added three times as much oil and gas to its reserves as it produced last year--did little to impress Wall Street analysts. The gains occurred through acquisitions. ConocoPhillips earlier said it likely ended 2006 with the equivalent of 11.1 billion barrels of oil in proved reserves--a key asset for the company. That compares to 9.4 billion barrels in 2005. The growth was largely tied to the purchase of Burlington Resources and its increased stake in a Russian oil producer. ConocoPhillips is scheduled to report fourth-quarter and full-year earnings on January 24th.


BP Alternative Energy North America plans to begin construction on five U.S. wind power generation projects this year in four states, including Texas. The central Texas location is a 60 megawatt joint project with Clipper Windpower, and another project in west Texas will be in excess of 100 megawatts. Projects are also located in California, Colorado and North Dakota. BP's nationwide wind power plans include almost 100 projects generating up to 15,000 megawatts.


NewPoint Energy Solutions has begun offering renewable energy options to homes and businesses in the Houston area. The firm offers system design and technology expertise, financing, installation and system support. NewPoint's first complete renewable energy system is in Evia, a residential community in Galveston, combining solar power, wind power, energy conservation and environmentally-friendly backup power technologies.


Aetna has signed a long-term contract for all of Memorial Hermann's hospitals and outpatient facilities in the Houston area. The agreement covers: Memorial Hermann Medical Center, Memorial Hermann Southwest, Memorial Hermann the Woodlands, Memorial Hermann Southeast, Memorial Hermann Northwest, Memorial Hermann Memorial City and Memorial Hermann Hear& Vascular Institute SW.


Southwest Airlines co-founder and chairman Herb Kelleher has been named to the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Kelleher will serve a one-year term. Kelleher was a San Antonio lawyer when he and a client formed Southwest and fended off lawsuits by other carriers to begin service in the early 1970s in Texas. Southwest has since grown into one of the nation's largest airlines. Kelleher was CEO from 1982 to 2001. Each regional Federal Reserve Bank has a nine-member board with representatives of commercial banks, the public and members appointed by the Board of Governors in Washington.


Corral West Ranchwear says it's merging with a Texas company. The Cheyenne, Wyoming-based western and workwear retailer joined Dallas-based BTWW Retail in announcing their corporate nuptials. Corral West sells clothing, footwear, jewelry and other items at 95 Corral West Ranchwear and Work Wear Depot stores in 19 states--mostly in the west. BTWW sells western wear, tack and workwear at 43 Western Warehouse, Boot Town, Job Site and Sergeant's Western World in five states. Corral West CEO Leslie Ball says the new company would be the nation's largest western and workwear retailer. Financial terms of the merger aren't being disclosed. Ball says the company would be called BTWW but would be headquartered in Cheyenne--meaning some job eliminations in Dallas. But Bell says the Dallas office will remain as a regional office and that no stores would be closed or changed.


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