Posted: Jun 17, 2010 10:44 AM by Melissa Canone
Updated: Jun 17, 2010 10:46 AM
WASHINGTON (AP) - BP's humbled CEO sat grim-faced Thursday as a
House chairman accused him of being oblivious to the risks of the
company's deep water operations. Tony Hayward waited his turn to
tell Congress he was "deeply sorry" for his company's
catastrophic oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., told the BP executive that in his
committee's review of 30,000 items, there was "not a single e-mail
or document that you paid even the slightest attention to the
dangers at this well."
A day after agreeing to a $20 billion victims' compensation
fund, Hayward was to tell Congress in prepared testimony that he
was "personally devastated" by the April explosion of the
Deepwater Horizon oil rig that triggered the giant spill - and that
he understands the anger that Americans feel toward him and his
Before beginning his own testimony, Hayward was buffeted by
scathing criticism from lawmakers from both parties.
Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, the senior Republican on the Energy
and Commerce Committee, said he agreed with the call of Democrats
on the panel for answers. But Barton accused the White House of
conducting a "$20 billion shakedown" by requiring oil giant BP to
establish a fund to compensate those hurt by the Gulf Coast oil
"I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House" on
Wednesday, Barton said.
But Rep. Ed Markey disagreed, saying it was "not a slush fund,
not a shakedown. ... It was the government of the United States
working to protect the most vulnerable citizens that we have in our
country right now, the residents of the Gulf."
"It's BP's spill," the Massachusetts Democrat said, "but it
is America's ocean, and it is America's citizens who are being
harmed. ... No, this is not a shakedown of the company."
Rep. Michael Burgess, a Texas Republican, said that BP "appears
to have taken their eye off the ball."
Some of the sharpest criticism came from Rep. Bart Stupak,
D-Mich. "We are not small people. But we wish to get our lives
back," he told Hayward. "I'm sure you'll get your life back, and
with a golden parachute to England."
It was a reference to Wayward's much-criticized earlier remark
that some day he hoped to get "my life back" and to comments on
the White House driveway on Wednesday by BP Chairman Carl-Henric
Svanberg that "we care about the small people" of the Gulf Coast.
Hayward sipped a beverage and jotted notes as one lawmaker after
another scorched him.
A group of protesters milled in the hallway outside the hearing
room, including Diane Wilson, 61, a fourth-generation fisher from
Seadrift, Texas, near the Gulf Coast. Wilson, appearing with a
black-stained hand, said she wanted to send a message: "Hayward
should go to jail."
She was joined by Ann Wright, 63, of Honolulu, Hawaii, who wore
a BP hard hat, overalls and sunglasses adorned with dollar signs.
"BP doesn't really care about this," she said, pulling out an
oil-stained rubber ducky.
Waxman opened the hearing with rare praise for the oil giant.
"Yesterday, BP pledged to establish a $20 billion escrow account
and to suspend its dividend payments for the rest of the year. I'm
sure these were not easy decisions for you, but they were the right
ones, and I commend you for them," he told the embattled CEO.
But then the gloves came off. "When you became CEO of BP, you
promised to focus like a laser on safe and reliable operations,"
Waxman said. "We wanted to know what you had done to keep this
"We could find no evidence that you paid any attention to the
tremendous risks BP was taking. We've reviewed 30,000 pages of
documents from BP, including your e-mails. There is not a single e-
mail or document that shows you paid even the slightest attention
to the dangers at this well."
Waxman asserted that Hayward and his top deputies "were
apparently oblivious to what was happening" and had been ignoring
danger signs on the well in the days before it exploded.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn, told Hayward "BP has not learned
from previous mistakes."