17
Jun
10

Lawmakers accuse BP chief of evasion over oil spill

NEWS
Lawmakers accuse BP chief of evasion over oil spill

Thursday, June 17, 2010

BP boss Tony Hayward has vowed the British energy giant will repair the economic and environmental devastation caused by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill as he was quizzed by irate lawmakers.

‘I know that only actions and results, not mere words ultimately can give you the confidence you seek. I give my pledge as the leader of BP that we will not rest until we make this right,’ a contrite Hayward said on Thursday.

Saying it was too early to pin down the causes of the April explosion on a BP-leased rig off Louisiana, Hayward pledged: ‘We and the entire industry will learn from this terrible event and emerge stronger, smarter and safer.’

Some lawmakers have publicly suggested senior BP officials should ‘commit hara-kiri’ over what has become the nation’s worst ever environmental disaster.

Amid tight security and sitting alone at a table to face congressmen and a media barrage, Hayward was sharply criticised in his first public appearance before Congress since the catastrophe was unleashed on southern U.S. shores.

‘I’m sure you will get your life back, and with a golden parachute back in England. But we in America are left with the terrible consequences of BP’s reckless disregard for safety,’ said Democratic Representative Bart Stupak.
Stupak, who chaired the hearing, was referring to a much-denounced statement in which Hayward, who has been the public face of the disaster, had said he wanted it to end so he could get on with his life.

At one point, a protester disrupted the hearing. ‘You need to be charged with a crime, Tony,’ she shouted. ‘You need to go to jail!’

She grappled with police and kept shouting as she wrestled with police trying to restrain her.

Tensions have been running high with millions of barrels of crude fouling the shorelines of four U.S. states, closing down fishing waters and hitting the region’s vital tourist industry.

On Wednesday BP agreed to set up a $20 billion escrow fund to pay compensation claims from thousands of Gulf businesses and residents facing economic ruin.

The deal was struck after Hayward and BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg were summoned to the White House for talks with U.S. President Barack Obama.

News of the escrow fund deal with the U.S. administration sent BP’s share price soaring almost 10 per cent on Thursday, after days of falls sparked by uncertainty over its future.

The fund will be run by prominent lawyer Kenneth Feinberg, who managed compensation claims by victims of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, and will be overseen by a panel of three judges who can hear appeals.

BP will fund the account in four annual payments of $5 billion, the White House said in a statement, adding it was ‘neither a floor nor a ceiling’ on BP’s total liability for the disaster.

The firm’s final bill will be tied to the amount of oil still spewing into the ocean each day, with U.S. experts putting that figure at between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels.

Hayward told lawmakers BP is now siphoning up an average of 20,000 barrels a day of oil to two processing ships on the surface.

The U.S. disaster coordinator, Admiral Thad Allen, said by ‘sometime early next week’ the company hoped to be containing 28,000 gallons – some of which will be burnt off by one of the surface ships.
And in some good news, Allen said drilling on a relief well, seen as the only way of permanently capping the spill, was ahead of schedule.

‘Mid-August was the target date; they’re actually ahead of schedule right now, but I’m not going to guarantee it will be earlier,’ Allen said, citing the meticulous work needed in carrying out the work safely.

‘We should be very wary about hard deadlines,’ he cautioned.

Analysts said BP, which has spent about $1.6 billion battling the spill and made a profit of about $14 billion in 2009, should be strong enough to weather the storm even if it has to borrow more.

‘They have enough cash flow and quality assets that will allow it to fund that type of liability,’ said Jason Gammel of Macquarie Research.

Amid deepening anger over the spill, Louisiana Representative Joseph Cao told one of Hayward’s colleagues this week that even the resignations of BP officials would not be enough.

‘In the Asian culture we do things differently. During the samurai days, we just give you a knife and ask to you commit hara-kiri,’ he said.
• Latest News & Headlines » Home «
• Source(s): British Petroleum PLC and Sky News / BSkyB / News Corporation
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