Internal BP documents examined by 60 Minutes confirm that top executives of the oil company were aware of safety issues that led to the worst workplace accident in this country in 16 years.There's apparently some juicy stuff:
60 Minutes also interviewed a federal official investigating the explosion at BP's Texas City refinery, which killed 15 and injured at least 170, who concludes the blast was "absolutely" preventable.
Correspondent Ed Bradley reports on the investigation this Sunday, Oct. 29, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
Carolyn Merritt, appointed by President Bush to be chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, says management at BP knew enough about Texas City's safety problems to have prevented the disaster.
"Absolutely," says Merritt to Bradley's question on whether the Texas City blast was preventable. "The problems that existed at BP Texas City were neither momentary nor superficial. They ran deep through that operation of a risk denial and a risk blindness that was not being addressed anywhere in the organization."
Merritt adds that she believes budget cuts at the facility were directly related to the accident. "Twenty-five percent of their fixed costs were cut and when you cut that much out of a budget ... Our investigation has shown that this was a drastic mistake," she says.
Merritt spoke to Bradley in the midst of her investigation into the accident. Her report, expected to be released in spring 2007, will outline other failures directly contributing to the deaths and injuries, including old equipment, corroded pipes and non-working alarms.
"There were three pieces of key instrumentation that were actually supposed to be repaired that were not repaired, and the management knew this," reveals Merritt. She says BP management authorized the operation that ultimately resulted in the blast, knowing the three pieces of equipment were not working properly.