Saturday, April 20, 2024

Panel: BP ignored drilling risks

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WASHINGTON – BP chief executive Tony Hayward has been told by an angry United States Congressional panel his firm ignored dangers when drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. House committee on energy and commerce chairman Henry Waxman said BP’s “complacency” before the April 20 rig explosion had been “astonishing”. Asked about apparent shortcuts taken before the spill, Hayward said it was too early to draw conclusions. Waxman replied that the BP chief executive was “stonewalling”.  “You’re not taking responsibility, you’re kicking the can down the road,” he added. Eleven people died in the Deepwater Horizon drill rig accident, which left a ruptured well spewing hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Despite BP efforts to contain the leak, oil continues to enter the sea, threatening states along the Gulf coast. BP says it will withhold dividends until the end of the year as part of its response to the spill. The company’s shares rose more than six per cent after it agreed to put $20bn (£13.5bn) in a fund to compensate victims of the spill.  The increase halted falls that had led to the company’s stock value halving in recent weeks. Congressman Waxman said in his opening remarks that BP had “cut corner after corner” in order to save money, which led to the explosion and fire on board the Deepwater Horizon. “We could find no evidence that you paid any attention to the tremendous risks BP was taking,” he went on. “We reviewed 30 000 pages of documents from BP, including your e-mails. There is not a single e-mail or document that shows you paid even the slightest attention to the dangers at this well.” One by one, other Congressmen attacked BP’s activities in America. “We are not small people but we wish to get our lives back,” said Bart Stupak, playing on a comment made the day before by BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg about how BP sympathised with the “small people” of the Gulf, and a recent remark by Hayward about wanting his “life back”. Congressman Joe Barton, the senior Republican on Waxman’s committee, said that while he agreed BP should explain its actions, he was “ashamed” to see the firm being made to set up the compensation fund. Hayward prepared to speak, a protester briefly disrupted the hearing, shouting that he should be “charged with a crime” before being removed. Hayward said he had focused on improving safety for the three years he had been in his post. Asked if his job was at stake, he said his priority was stopping the leak and clearing up the oil. (BBC)

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