News / USA

US Lawmakers Accuse BP Chief of Putting Profits Ahead of Safety


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

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs