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

Video Obama Announces Plan to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obama details troop deployment and other pieces of US plan More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa 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.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid