Processing Magazine

BP hires ex-judge to be U.S. ombudsman

September 5, 2006

The Associated Press reports that BP PLC has retained former U.S. District Judge Stanley Sporkin as its ombudsman to hear worker complaints from Alaska and elsewhere in the United States, in a move to stem the tide of criticism over the British oil titan''s operations. BP officials and Sporkin said BP has given the former jurist free rein to report to the company whatever he hears from workers in the field. Some BP workers in the past have taken their complaints about BP''s practices in Alaska to a former oil-tanker broker named Charles Hamel, a frequent oil-industry critic, because they say management hasn''t heeded their warnings about corrosion and other problems at Alaska''s giant Prudhoe Bay oil field. BP partially shut down production at the field last month after discovering corrosion problems more severe than company officials said they had realized. The move led to a surge in global oil prices and came amid investigations by federal and Alaska officials over BP''s management of pipelines in the state. Sporkin has some firsthand knowledge of the Alaskan oil issues. He presided over a lawsuit in 1993 in which Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. was accused of spying on Hamel and his wife, Kathy. Alyeska agreed to settle the case with Hamel and his wife without admitting wrongdoing. Alyeska operates the Trans-Alaska Pipeline on behalf of a consortium of oil companies that includes BP, Exxon Mobil Corp. and ConocoPhillips.