News / USA

US Lawmakers Accuse BP Chief of Putting Profits Ahead of Safety

Multimedia

Cindy Saine

BP's chief executive officer Tony Hayward faced hours of harsh criticism Thursday from members of a congressional panel who said his corporation has a record of taking risks, cutting costs and putting profits ahead of safety which likely contributed to the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.  Hayward said he was deeply sorry for the disaster, but that it is too early to draw conclusions on what caused the April 20th explosion.

BP CEO Tony Hayward said he was "personally devastated" when he learned that 11 people had died in the fire and explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico leased by his corporation.

"I understand how serious the situation is," said Tony Hayward. "It is a tragedy.  I want to speak directly to the people who live and work in the Gulf region.  I know that this incident has had a profound impact on your lives and caused great turmoil, and I deeply regret that. I also deeply regret the impact the spill has had on the environment."

As Hayward began to testify, a woman protester interrupted the hearing and had to be forcibly restrained and removed from the hearing room by a number of Capitol police officers.  She shouted at Hayward, "You need to be charged with a crime, you need to go to jail!"

The lawmakers did not go that far in their scathing criticism, although some did suggest that Hayward should resign.  Democratic Representative John Dingell of Michigan pointed out that Hayward enjoyed a 41 percent pay raise last year, while BP profits declined, and wondered what sort of pay raise he will get after this oil disaster in the Gulf this year.  Democratic Representative Bruce Braley of Iowa stressed that the word oil "spill" does not even describe the ongoing gushing of oil.

"And I use the word disaster specifically, because I don't think spill quite captures the magnitude of what is going on," said Bruce Braley.

A number of lawmakers blasted BP for what they called its dismal safety record over the years.  Democratic Representative Bart Stupak said that over the past five years, 26 people have died and 700 were injured in BP accidents, including in this current Gulf spill, a pipeline spill in Alaska and a refinery explosion in Texas.  Democratic Representative Mike Ross of Arkansas summed up the view of many lawmakers that the current disaster is part of a pattern.

"Reports have surfaced revealing that in the days and weeks before the explosion, BP knowingly made a number of decisions that increased the danger of an explosion and spill occurring," said Mike Ross. "It seems apparent that BP put profit before safety.  Many people are dead, millions of gallons of oil continue to spew into the Gulf."

BP chief Hayward said his company's top priority is to stop the oil from gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.

"First we are doing everything we can to secure the well, and in the meantime, contain the flow of oil." he said. "We are currently drilling two relief wells, we believe they represent the ultimate solution.  We expect this to be complete in August."

But Hayward refused to answer questions about the design of the well and whether BP had warning signs before the explosion that the well had all kinds of problems, prompting this heated exchange with Democratic Representative Henry Waxman of California.

Hayward:  "I'm not stonewalling. I simply was not involved in the decision making process. I've looked at the documents. And until the investigations are complete, both yours and others."

Waxman (interrupts): "No,no,no. But that's somebody's else conclusion. What's your conclusion?"

Hayward:  "I haven't drawn a conclusion, Mr. Chairman."

Waxman: "I see. My time is expired and I'm just amazed at this testimony, Mr. Hayward.  You're not taking responsibility. You're kicking the can down the road and acting as if you have nothing to do with this company, and nothing to do with the decisions.  I find that irresponsible."

Earlier in the day, Republican Representative Joe Barton of Texas stunned many in the room when he apologized to BP chief Hayward for what he described as political pressure by President Barack Obama on Wednesday to force BP to set up a $20 billion escrow fund to compensate those hurt by the oil disaster.

"But I am ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday," said Joe Barton. "I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a "shakedown", in this case a $20 billion shakedown, with the attorney general of the United States, who is legitimately conducting a criminal investigation, and has every right to do so to protect the interests of the American people, participating in what amounts to a $20 billion slush fund, that is unprecedented in our nation's history, that has got no legal standing and which sets  I think a terrible precedent for the future."

Most of the lawmakers on the House panel strongly disagreed with Barton, and commended President Obama and Hayward for doing the right thing in setting up the fund.  Democrative Representative Edward Markey said he disagreed with Barton in the strongest possible terms, and denied that the creation of the fund is a "shakedown."

"Rather 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," said Edward Markey.

The White House quickly released a statement in response, saying that it is "shameful" that Joe Barton seems to have more concern for big corporations that caused this disaster than the fishermen, small business owners and communities whose lives have been devastated.  The White House called on members of both parties to repudiate Barton's comments.

You May Like

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid