By Alex Winslow - Texas Watch - October 18, 2007
Texas Watch Executive Director Alex Winslow speaks at a press conference about the importance of legal accountability for corporate CEOs like Lord John Browne, the head of BP at the time of the tragic explosion at Texas City that killed 15 workers and injured hundreds more. Texas Watch Executive Director Alex Winslow delivered the following statement about the threats posed to Texas workers, families, and communities when corporate CEOs are allowed to avoid accountability for their actions:
"Today the Texas Supreme Court will hear arguments in a matter that goes to the core of accountability. The question before the Court today is whether Lord John Browne – the CEO of British Petroleum at the time of the tragic explosion at Texas City that killed 15 Texas workers and injured hundreds more – will have to answer for the decisions he made that led to the explosion.
"But, this is about much more than one man having to answer a few questions. This is about CEO accountability and the threat posed to our communities when corporate CEOs are allowed to make decisions that affect Texas families without having to answer for those decisions.
"The decisions made by corporate CEOs in board rooms all around the world threaten the safety of communities right here in Texas. Children on their way to school, families who breathe our air and drink our water, and small business owners who serve the plant and its workers all face a greater danger when CEOs are allowed to avoid accountability for the decisions they make.
"In Texas, the value of personal responsibility is sacrosanct. Now, I know that Lord Browne isn’t from around these parts, but he should still have to answer for his actions. When I was growing up my mother – like parents everywhere – worked hard to instill in me that if I hurt someone – whether on purpose or on accident – that I was going to have to face the consequences. The same principal applies to Lord Browne and his band of corporate CEOs.
"When CEOs are allowed to avoid accountability, they will invariably cut corners. When they skimp on workplace safety, then there is a higher likelihood of a catastrophic event that spews pollution into our air, threatens the safety of children in nearby schools, and puts families at risk of harm.
"In Texas, no one should be above having to answer for their actions, no one should be allowed to escape accountability, and no one should be able to walk away from dangers they pose without consequence.
"BP consciously decided to put profits ahead of people and Lord Browne was the ultimate decision maker. Along with his cadre of 175 Corporate CEOs who signed on to support him, he is asking the Texas Supreme Court to protect him. Well, where were they when Texas workers and communities needed protecting?
"The corporate CEOs and their special interest lobbyists have ushered in a new era dominated by a corporate immunity movement. No longer are we talking about parity and balance in the legal system. We are talking about a broad expansion of immunity for wrongdoers.
"Today’s hearing typifies their desire to escape responsibility for their actions.
"Sadly the Texas Supreme Court has a long track record of aiding and abetting insurance companies, polluters, and other wrongdoers who are hell-bent on pushing a corporate immunity agenda.
"If the Texas Supreme Court continues to give CEOs like Lord Browne a pass on accountability, then they are sending a message that immunizing foreign corporate wrongdoers is more important than keeping Texas communities safe from environmental, industrial, and workplace disasters."
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