Thursday PM March 22nd, 2007

France's foreign trade minister drums up U.S.-French investment opportunities...European Union adopts "open skies" concept...Daughter of BP Texas City explosion victims speaks before Congress...

France's foreign trade minister has been making the rounds to encourage the opening of new markets for French exports. Christine Legarde is promoting business cooperation, despite occasional political disagreements. Christine Legarde says France has been making it easier for foreign investment, and points to the "open skies" agreement that will allow American airlines to better compete in Europe.

"There was a formal agreement to actually implement the open sky policy which has been under negotiation for four years. Some of the nice little 'rights' that were put into place many, many years ago will have to be sort of nicely phased out, to the benefit of a true European-American, American-European open sky policy."

Legarde visited to witness first-hand the diversification of Houston's economy. There are around 75 French companies operating in Houston and nearly 40 Houston firms operating with subsidiaries in France.

European Union governments have given their blessing to a deal with the U.S. to increase air traffic over the Atlantic by opening up restricted routes to new rivals. All 27 EU nations are backing the open skiesdeal, which will take effect just over a year from now. That's later than expected. Britain had pushed for more time than originally proposed before opening up London Heathrow, Europe's busiest airport, to more carriers. European negotiators will now have to secure U.S. agreement to delay the pact, originally scheduled to take effect this October. Only four airlines currently have the right to fly from Heathrow to the U.S. They are British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines and United.

A woman who lost both parents in the fiery 2005 Texas City BP plant explosion asked members of Congress to improve safety laws. Eva Rowe went before the U.S. Education and Labor Committee in Washington. She wiped away tears as she testified. Rowe also displayed a photo of her parents on the witness table. James and Linda Rowe were from Hornbeck, Louisiana. Eva Rowe recently settled her lawsuit against BP. The March 23rd, 2005, accident killed 15 workers and left more than 170 people hurt. Rowe is backing a bill in the Texas legislature to set up a Texas Work Safety Commission. She's also working to pass into law many recommendations from the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazards Investigation Board. Meanwhile, a rally for the "remember the 15'' bill is set for tomorrow on the steps of the Texas Capitol.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced it will nearly double the number of workers trained to do advanced inspections at refineries. Those reviews were called for in a government report released this week that criticized the agency's oversight of BP's Texas City refinery before a deadly explosion. Tomorrow is the second anniversary of the fiery accident. The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board's report says the British oil company's Texas City plant had several fatal accidents over the last 30 years. But the report noted OSHA had done only one process safety management inspection at the BP unit in 1998. The report said OSHA did few of the comprehensive safety inspections nationally between 1995 and 2005. The report recommends OSHA increase that number and the number of inspectors who do them.

Bio photo of Ed Mayberry

Ed Mayberry

Local Anchor, All Things Considered

Ed Mayberry has worked in radio since 1971, with many of those years spent on the rock 'n' roll disc jockey side of the business...