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

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    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.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora