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BP appoints panel to assess company's culture, safety

Updated:
HOUSTON (AP) _ Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III will head a panel investigating safety and management oversight at BP Products North America Inc. following a refinery explosion and fire that killed 15 people and injured 170.

The independent panel has been asked to complete its work within a year and to make its recommendations public. The Texas City blast in March was one of a series of fires and other safety problems at BP Group Plc.

``We are determined to do everything possible to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again by ensuring that safety practices at our operations are effective and comprehensive,'' BP chief executive John Browne said in a statement Monday.

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board urged BP in August to hire outside experts to look at the company's oversight of safety management systems.

The Chemical Safety Board plans to issue the preliminary findings of its investigation into the March explosion Thursday during a public meeting in Texas City.

Baker, a senior partner at the Baker Botts law firm founded by his grandfather, was White House chief of staff and treasury secretary in the Reagan administration and secretary of state in the first Bush administration.
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