The Firm . Buzbee, BP in spat over pipe leak


Buzbee, BP in spat over pipe leak


BP officials confirmed they are monitoring what the company termed a “minor” leak from a pipe at its Texas City refinery. The leak at one of the refinery’s pipestills started Monday and still was not contained as of Friday afternoon.

The leak is not visible to the human eye, officials said, and poses no risk to workers or the community. Texas City Director of Homeland Security Bruce Clawson said the company contacted him Monday to inform him of the leak and has provided regular updates.

BP officials said the amount released thus far has not reached state or federal required levels for reporting. Still, spokesman Michael Marr said the company went ahead and notified regulatory agencies of the leak after Friendswood attorney Tony Buzbee sent a letter to BP’s lawyers, as well as regulatory agencies, outlining concerns about the leak.

In the letter to the company that was copied to the Texas attorney general, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Environmental Protection Agency, Galveston County District Attorney Kurt Sistrunk, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and news outlets, Buzbee claims the leak is bigger than BP admits and it puts “lives at risk” because the unidentified hydrocarbon leaking is flammable.

Buzbee bases his allegations on information he claims comes from workers inside the refinery who work on the unit where the leak is.

He threatened legal action against the company if it did not shut down the units connected to the pipestill and outlined plans to fix it.

BP rebuffed Buzbee’s demands.

“Galveston County citizens and community leaders should be skeptical of claims by a lawyer with a presumed financial motive to make them,” BP spokesman Michael Marr said. “The fact that Mr. Buzbee sent his letter to the press at the same time as he sent it to BP suggests that publicity may be another goal.”

Buzbee recently filed a series of lawsuits against BP, including one in federal court seeking $10 billion, contending that a 40-day emissions event in April and May at BP’s Texas City refinery posed serious health risks for residents.

Buzbee called BP’s response to the latest incident “arrogant.”

“Remember that small leaks lead to catastrophic failures,” Buzbee said. “This company, which has the worst safety record in the U.S.’s recent past, has a gas leak right now at its plant that has been leaking since (Monday) that could cause an explosion. Did they deny it? No.

“Did they deny they refuse to shut down to fix it? No.”

BP’s response to Buzbee? Butt out.

“Mr. Buzbee’s letter is not accurate,” Marr said. “There is no need for Mr. Buzbee to be involved in this matter and no need for him to go to court. In light of the broad distribution of Mr. Buzbee’s letter, we have reached out to our regulatory agencies to advise them of Mr. Buzbee’s letter and to brief them on the true status of the equipment discussed.”

Click here for Buzbee's letter to BP's attorney and BP's press relations department's response.


T. J. Aulds
Galveston Daily News
September 25, 2010