Various news agencies are reporting that BP will shutter its Office of the Ombudsman effective June 2011. The decision comes less than two weeks after the petrochemical giant announced it was setting up a new, beefed-up internal safety function and months after the company denied targeting the Ombuds for closure.

A BP spokesperson defended the decision and said, "It has always been our intent to internalize the employee concerns process [into the OpenTalk program], but only at the point in time when we felt the internal processes were sufficiently robust." The Ombuds program was created by BP after the fatal explosion in 2005 at its Texas City refinery with the hiring of retired federal judge Stanley Sporkin. In addition to Sporkin, the office employs a full-time staff of five and has a budget to hire external investigator. According to the internal figures, the number of cases handled by the BP Ombuds have increased steadily over the past few years. Sporkin has yet to comment publicly on the announcement. (UPI; Guardian UK.)

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