HOUSTON, (AP) -Outgoing BP PLC chief executive Lord John Browne was ordered Friday to answer questions about the company’s deadly Texas City plant explosion in 2005 that killed 15 people and injured hundreds more.
Browne was previously ordered to give a deposition, but it was put on hold by the court when attorneys for Eva Rowe, whose parents were killed by the blast, settled with BP in November.
Attorney Brent Coon, who represented Rowe, said his firm still has 150 other lawsuits pending against BP and that Browne’s deposition is important to them.
The company said it is considering its options, including an appeal.
“Lord Browne does not have unique personal knowledge about the incident,” BP spokesman Neil Chapman said.
BP announced last month that Browne would step down by the end of July — more than a year ahead of schedule.
The Texas City explosion occurred when part of the plant’s isomerization unit, which boosts the level of octane in gasoline, overfilled with highly flammable liquid hydrocarbons.
There was a geyser-like release of flammable liquid and vapor, which ignited as the unit was starting up. Alarms and gauges that should have warned of the overfilling equipment failed to work at the plant, located about 40 miles southeast of Houston.
The unit had a history of problems and was not hooked up to a flare system that burns off vapor and could have prevented or minimized the accident, according to an initial report by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, one of several agencies looking into the blast.
The CSB also found that BP fostered bad management at the plant and that internal documents showed budget cuts caused a progressive deterioration of safety at the refinery.