News / USA

    US Lawmakers Blast Oil Executives for Being Unprepared for Major Spills

    Cindy Saine

    Executives from five of the world's largest oil companies came under fire on Capitol Hill for having inadequate and almost identical contingency plans for dealing with potential disasters like the current BP's massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Leaders of the four other oil companies present at the hearing sought to distance themselves from the way BP drilled the Deepwater Horizon well, and all five executives defended offshore drilling as critical to the U.S. economy.

    U.S. lawmakers grilled top oil executives for almost five hours Tuesday on the safety of industry practices during a dramatic and intense House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on Capitol Hill.

    Democratic Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts chaired the hearing, which he called historic.

    "This has been an historic hearing, but we are in an historic time.  This is the single worst environmental disaster in our country's history.  And the American people want to know how it happened, why the response is so inadequate and what we are going to have to do in order to ensure that it never happens again," he said.

    Congressman Markey, Democratic Representative Henry Waxman of California and other senior Democrats on the panel focused on all five oil companies' disaster response plans, saying documents they have studied reveal that none of them is better equipped than BP to deal with a major oil spill.

    Markey said that three of the contingency plans list the phone number for a wildlife expert who has been dead since 2005, and several of the regional plans listed walruses and sea lions as animals that could be affected, though none of them live in the Gulf of Mexico.

    Under questioning about the lack of substance of the disaster response plans, ExxonMobil Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson admitted that preventing major explosions is key, because once they happen, there is not a lot that can be done.

    "The answer to that is that when these things happen, we are not well-equipped to deal with them," he said.

    Tillerson did say that he believed the Deepwater Horizon Oil rig tragedy, which killed 11 people could have been prevented, indicating there were likely faults in BP's well design.

    "We would not have drilled the well the way they did," he said.

    The other oil executives from ConocoPhillips, Chevron and Shell also agreed that they would have had a different well design.  Tillerson said the Deepwater Horizon incident represents a dramatic departure from the industry norm, and that investigators need to find out what happened there that did not happen at the other 14,000 offshore oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico.

    Committee Chairman Markey slammed BP America Chairman and President Lamar McKay for what he called "lowballing" estimates of how much oil is spilling into the Gulf and demanded an apology from him in this tense exchange between the two men.

    Markey: "On the day Mr. McKay that you are ready to apologize…"

    McKay: "What's that?"

    Markey: "On the day that you are ready to apologize, that is the day that we can begin to move forward and put together the kinds of plans that make sure this never happens again. It was BP's spill, but it was America's ocean.  And we need you to admit that you knew or should have known very early on that this was not a spill of 1,000 or 5,000 barrels a day."

    BP America Chairman McKay said he was sorry for the loss of life and damage associated with the rig explosion.  When he was asked if BP would be willing to put funds into a separate escrow account to compensate those affected by the oil spill, this was his response.

    "I cannot comment on whether there will be a fund set aside or not.  We have made it clear that the company stands behind these commitments, we have got a strong balance sheet, we have got a strong company, we intend to stand behind those," he said.

    Some Republicans on the panel also took a tough stand on BP and the other oil executives.  Republican Congressman Cliff Stearns of Florida called on BP America Chairman McKay to resign immediately.  But several Republican lawmakers joined the oil executives in calling for an end to the six-month moratorium on deepwater oil drilling declared by President Obama after the spill.

    Some Republican lawmakers accused Democrats of using the oil spill crisis to try to push their energy and climate legislation through Congress.

    You May Like

    Wife of IS Leader Charged in Death of US Hostage

    Suspect allegedly admitted to being responsible for American aid worker Kayla Mueller, who officials say was sexually abused and ‘owned’ by one IS member

    Year of the Monkey Could Prove Economic Balancing Act for China

    China is up against a tricky situation on the financial front, facing the need to fight capital flight while also stopping a further slide of foreign currency reserves

    Runners Attempt 26-mile South Pole Marathon in Sub-Zero Temperatures

    How alluring is running 26.2 miles at 10,000 feet when it’s minus 31 Celsius out?

    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.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.