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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More