Tuesday June 21st, 2005

Fired Texas City refinery worker files slander lawsuit against BP…Galveston Bay Conservation and Preservation Association opposes BP’s proposed Pelican Island LNG facility…CERA predicts oil and gas production capacity will exceed demand over rest of decade… One of several men fired last month in the fallout from the March 23rd explosion at the Texas City BP […]

Fired Texas City refinery worker files slander lawsuit against BP…Galveston Bay Conservation and Preservation Association opposes BP’s proposed Pelican Island LNG facility…CERA predicts oil and gas production capacity will exceed demand over rest of decade…

One of several men fired last month in the fallout from the March 23rd explosion at the Texas City BP plant has accused the company of slander. Steven Adams filed a slander lawsuit Friday against BP in Galveston County State District Court. Adams says he’s angered by company officials who looked the other way when workers complained about safety. In a press conference May 17th, BP officials called worker error a root cause of the accident that killed 15 people and injured 170. Adams says his error involved forgetting to sign a procedure checklist as he ended his nightshift the morning of the accident. He says the oversight had no connection to the blast. BP spokesman Hugh Depland declined to comment on Adams’ allegation, saying that the company does not discuss personnel matters.

The Galveston Bay Conservation and Preservation Association is announcing its opposition to BP’s proposed liquified natural gas facility on Pelican Island. GBCPA Chairman Jim Blackburn says BP doesn’t have a good safety record in this region. Blackburn says he’s concerned that Texas will end up with many LNG facilities because other states are resisting the construction of these installations. Several companies have applied for permits to build LNG facilities on the Gulf Coast.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating a contract worker’s fatal exposure at Bayer Baytown Industrial Park to a strong corrosive poison used in making plastics used in DVDs and CDs. KBR employee Salvador Barba died after an accidental release of the chemical compound on Saturday while performing a routine maintenance function. The mishap occurred in the polycarbonate facility in the Bayer Material Science area of the park–an area that has since been barricaded until investigations are complete.

The U. S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited KCC Group of Pearland for failing to protect workers from trenching hazards that led to an employee’s death. OSHA proposes $133,000 in penalties. The investigation centered around a trench cave-in at a worksite on York Boulevard in which one worker was killed.

A new field-by-field analysis from Cambridge Energy Research Associates predicts worldwide oil and natural gas liquids production capacity is likely to substantially exceed demand through much of the second half of this decade. CERA Director of Oil Industry Activity Peter Jackson says that’s despite current high oil prices and new warnings that the world may run out of oil.

Peter Jackson audio

CERA provides independent analysis to energy and power companies, consumers, financial institutions, governments and technology companies.

Oil prices could be headed even higher and there’s a prediction of $3 gasoline. Light sweet crude for July delivery climbed 90 cents to $59.37 a barrel yesterday, a record close on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil reached the new high even as the president of OPEC said the group will consider raising its output ceiling by half a million barrels a day. OPEC raised its output target by that amount just last week. But the move appears to have little impact on prices, which have risen by almost $12 a barrel in the past month. But oil tycoon Boone Pickens says $60 a barrel oil is likely, calling it only a psychological barrier. He says $3 a gallon for gasoline won’t be unusual a year from now either.

The chief executive of Houston-based Apache Corporation says high energy prices are hurting the U. S. economy and will have a worsening effect at current or increased levels. Steven Farris said in a phone interview at the Reuters Energy Summit that while economies around the world have been handling higher fuel prices for years, U. S. consumers will only take so much.

Apache says a technical problem at BP’s Kinneil processing plant in Scotland temporarily shut down the Forties Pipeline yesterday, causing a number of North Sea fields to shut in. BP was expecting to bring the system back on line today.

The Senate has voted to go ahead with an inventory of the nation’s offshore oil and natural gas resources. It rejected an effort by Florida’s two senators to strip the provision from the energy bill that’s now being considered. The bill calls for the inventory to include areas that have been off limits to drilling for nearly a quarter century. Supporters insisted the proposal isn’t a prelude to drilling and would simply provide a reading on what resources might be available in the future. Florida Senators Mel Martinez and Bill Nelson called it the ”first step” to drilling, including areas where drilling is now banned.

Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch today said Houston-based Centerpoint Energy deliberately violated the law and cut off heat to poor customers. Hatch is seeking $5 million in fines. The matter involves a law designed to protect poor customers from heat cutoffs last winter and compliance with Minnesota’s cold weather rule. Hatch said Centerpoint Energy “should be shamed” and punished severely. Hatch asked the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to order Centerpoint to pay restitution to people whose homes were damaged or lost because they weren’t reconnected quickly enough. Centerpoint didn’t immediately return a message for comment. The utility serves more than 750,000 customers in Minnesota.

Continental Airlines has applied to the National Mediation Board to assist the company in reaching an agreement for pay and benefit reductions with its flight attendants. Continental says attendants must join other co-workers in participating in pay and benefit reductions. If the NMB determines the parties are at an impasse, it can offer binding arbitration. If either party does not accept binding arbitration, a 30-day cooling off period begins. Then the company can impose pay and benefit reductions without an agreement, and flight attendants could strike.

The Waste Management suburban Chicago Local 330 union is threatening to strike. Union officials say the Houston-based company walked out of negotiations demanding that the union revote a contract that was overwhelmingly rejected. But representatives from the solid waste company say they met with union officials at their request, and union officials walked out of the meeting offering no alternative proposal or plan. Waste Management’s last and final offer on Thursday was $22.81 per hour in the first year, $23.31 in the second and $23.91 the third and final year of the contract. But union officials say when looking at the total package, with wages and benefits, it’s less than a deal the company signed with a sister team in the same jurisdictional region, Local 673.

SCI Funeral and Cemetery Purchasing Cooperative will outsource some of its accounting and finance positions, according to the Houston Chronicle. About 120 employees will be terminated. SCI told the Texas Workforce Commission that it expects many workers will be immediately hired by the outsourcing firm.

The collections department of General Motors Acceptance Corporation is eliminating 45 positions at its Houston office. GMAC made the disclosure in a filing with the Texas Workforce Commission.

Three securities law firms have filed federal lawsuits against Houston-based Cyberonics, according to the Houston Chronicle. The suits allege that company insiders sold $2 million in stock last year while failing to disclose negative information to investors. Cyberonics manufactures a pacemaker-like device to treat epilepsy. The company has been trying to gain regulatory approval to market its vagus stimulation therapy to treat severe depression.

Lexicon Genetics has a three-year research deal with California-based XOMA Ltd. to make and sell antibody drugs, according to the Houston Business Journal. XOMA will make antibodies to test against drug targets discovered by Woodlands-based Lexicon. The first target is one that might be useful in treating type II diabetes, as well as obesity.

A Texas company will help search for Natalee Holloway of Mountain Brook, Alabama–the teenager who’s missing in Aruba. The missing girl’s uncle, Paul Reynolds, told Court TV that the family has contracted with Dickinson-based Texas Equusearch mounted search and recovery team. Texas Equusearch, made up of volunteers, says on its web site that a team is traveling to Aruba this week. Meanwhile, a disc jockey on a party boat is the fourth person detained in the disappearance of the youth. Holloway disappeared in the early hours of May 30th–the last day of a five-day vacation with 124 students celebrating their high school graduation. Her passport and packed bags were found in her room.

Franklin Bank of Austin is purchasing five Washington Mutual banking offices in Beaumont, Groves, Nederland, El Campo and Wharton. Seattle-based Washington Mutual is being paid a 12 percent deposit premium. The addition of the five banking facilities brings Franklin to 27 community banks throughout Texas.

Aaron Rents has acquired a chain of Texas rental stores called Rent2Own, with locations in Houston and four other cities. The rental volume of the acquired stores will be merged into existing Aaron’s Sales & Lease Ownership locations.

Houston-based Newfield Exploration has signed a production sharing contract for an oilfield offshore Malaysia. The national company Petronas Carigali will have a 40 percent stake, and first production is expected in 2008.

Dynegy completed the scheduled maintenance outages of its Power Generation fleet for the summer cooling season on June 11th. Dynegy’s scheduled maintenance outages began in January at 21 power generation units at facilities in four states.

Iranian-American filmmaker Kayvan Mashayekh of Houston is showing his film “The Keeper: the Legend of Omar Khayyam” at the Moscow International Film Festival. The film comes to Texas with a gala premiere at The Angelika Film Center on Thursday with a benefit for Texas Children’s Cancer Center. “The Keeper” is the first American film produced almost entirely in Uzbekistan. The movie tells the story of a boy living in Houston who uncovers a personal connection to the great Omar Khayyam, the 11th century poet of the famous Rubaiyat.

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