Business

Thursday PM October 18th, 2007

Plaintiffs seek deposition frmo BP’s former chief…Union Carbide-Dow chemical pipeline explodes in Port Arthur; ExxonMobil refinery fire in Montana brought under control…Apple to allow third-party applications on iPhone… Attorneys for plaintiffs in several lawsuits over the deadly 2005 Texas City explosion are asking the Texas Supreme Court to allow them to question BP’s former top […]

Plaintiffs seek deposition frmo BP’s former chief…Union Carbide-Dow chemical pipeline explodes in Port Arthur; ExxonMobil refinery fire in Montana brought under control…Apple to allow third-party applications on iPhone…

Attorneys for plaintiffs in several lawsuits over the deadly 2005 Texas City explosion are asking the Texas Supreme Court to allow them to question BP’s former top executive. Attorney Brent Coon argued Thursday in Austin that Lord John Browne’s deposition is necessary because he has unique knowledge about company decisions that might have contributed to the explosion. But BP’s attorneys say Browne does not have any unique personal knowledge and the information plaintiffs are seeking could be learned by questioning others or through less intrusive means. There was no timetable for when the court would rule.


Port Arthur officials are still urging residents near an overnight pipeline explosion to stay indoors and turn off outside ventilation. The Union Carbide-Dow chemical pipeline exploded about 2 a.m. Thursday just off U.S. 69, about a mile northwest of Texas 73 in the Stonegate section of Port Arthur. Flames soared about 100 feet into the sky, but no injuries or damage was reported. The pipeline flow was shut off about an hour and-a-half later. Port Arthur Fire Chief Larry Richards says the fire was much-diminished after the ethylene flow was shut off, but it could take several hours for the residual chemical to burn off.


A fire at an ExxonMobil refinery in Montana is under control–after an initial explosion shook nearby houses and sent a fireball into the sky. A spokeswoman for the Irving company said refinery personnel continued to depressurize the unit where the fire occurred. The fire could burn until that is completed. Authorities believe the explosion at the company’s refinery occurred in a processing unit after piping in a high-pressure unit leaked gases that ignited. The accident happened at the ExxonMobil refinery in Lockwood, near Billings.


High Street Financial researcher and chief economist Harry Dent, Jr., says rising commodity prices will fuel a continued stock market surge, but North American and European economies will then see a decade-long economic contraction. Dent spoke at a luncheon sponsored by Ernst & Young. The aging of the baby boom generation, he says, is the biggest indicator that the housing sector bubble has burst. Dent predicts oil prices will exceed $100 a barrel.


American Airlines and Brazil’s Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes have temporarily suspended service to Bolivia. Officials cited an internal conflict among government aviation agencies. Fort Worth-based American says it will halt flights in the country until Friday. A customer service told the Associated Press that Gol planned to resume service Thursday. American manager Drago Komadina says the carrier made the decision after one of its jets bound for Miami was detained in Santa Cruz by the local aviation agency. Since October 11th, the agency has required airlines to pay–in cash–airport duties of up to $2,000. Airlines have protested the new policy, and said officials are demanding payments be routed to private bank accounts–instead of public fiscal accounts, as is customary. The local agency has quarreled with the federal department that oversees it.


Apple CEO Steve Jobs says Apple will allow third-party applications on its iPhone. The decision marks a reversal of Apple’s previous desire to control all the applications consumers have on their iPhones. Jobs said the company intends to release a software development kit in February that will let people outside the company to create iPhone and iPod touch applications. Coders have built numerous iPhone applications that run on the company’s Safari Web browser because the company didn’t initially open the iPhone directly to third-party software development. The iPhone, which combines a phone, multimedia and wireless Internet into one device, was released in late June. Apple has sold over a million iPhones since the product’s launch.


The advocacy group that challenged the taxpayer-funded incentives given to Dell for building a plant in Forsyth County will ask the State Supreme Court to hear its lawsuit. On Tuesday, the State Court of Appeals threw out the case filed by the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law. The three-judge panel ruled the Supreme Court declared such incentives legal in 1996. The high court’s justices aren’t required to hear the appeal because Tuesday’s ruling was unanimous. But Institute Attorney Jeanette Doran said the justices should take up the matter because it raises significant constitutional questions. The plant opened in 2005 and employs more than 1,100 workers. Dell could receive more than $300 million in incentives if it hires more workers in the coming years.


An attempt to bring a high-class, high-priced resort to a remote, rugged area of west Texas has flopped. Developer Stephen R. Smith’s resort was called Lajitas, the ultimate hideout. Now, the resort is bankrupt and set to be sold at auction in San Antonio. The 92-room resort is replete with a private air strip, lush 18-hole golf course and a beer-swilling goat that holds the honorary title of mayor. It has a taxable value of just under $17 million and owes creditors nearly $15 million. The fledgling resort was sandwiched between the Big Bend State and National Parks along the Rio Grande, about 300 miles southeast of El Paso. It’s long struggled financially. In 2006, Lajitas CEO Daniel Hostettler told the Associated Press that the resort hadn’t made money since he was hired in 2002. Earlier this year, Lajitas defaulted on a high-interest $12.5 million loan and filed for bankruptcy to stave off foreclosure.

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