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Gulf oil spill: Swift reaction to BP's ouster of Hayward from spill response

June 18, 2010 |  2:50 pm
BP’s decision to make Bob Dudley, a U.S.-born veteran oil industry executive, its public face for the company’s response to the gulf spill was welcomed Friday on Capitol Hill, where a day earlier the company’s Chief Executive Tony Hayward drew bipartisan rage for "stonewalling" a congressional committee investigating the environmental disaster.

"Whether this change in gulf leadership for BP will be productive remains to be seen," said Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce oversight and investigations subcommittee. Still, Stupak said he expects Dudley to take a "much more cooperative and open approach to answering our questions and responding to the needs of the gulf region.  If not, his tenure will likely be as short-lived as Mr. Hayward’s.”

Stupak was furious with what he called Hayward’s evasiveness during his appearance before his panel on Thursday. "Mr. Hayward’s failure to be transparent since the beginning of this crisis has only added to BP’s lack of credibility with the public," Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) added. "But the main issue is that BP needs to get the leak plugged and the gulf cleaned up.  I hope this move helps that effort."

Dudley, BP’s managing director, attended the White House meeting this week that led BP to set up a $20-billion fund to pay for economic damages to the Gulf Coast. He told PBS’ "NewsHour" this week that he grew up on the Gulf Coast. He said on NBC’s "Meet the Press" in late May that "Tony’s doing a fantastic job."

Dudley had been with Amoco Corp. since the late 1970s when it merged with BP in 1998.  Earlier this month, Hayward put Dudley in charge of a new division within BP to manage the long-term response to the spill.

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), among those most critical of Hayward’s Capitol Hill appearance Thursday, welcomed the change.   “I have absolutely no confidence that Hayward can respond to this crisis, and I welcome BP’s decision to replace him," he said. "I hope that Mr. Dudley will be more forthcoming in explaining how BP plans to cap the oil well and address the huge and severe environmental and economic damage in the gulf region.”

Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.) said Hayward should be fired. "As long as Mr. Hayward remains at the helm of BP, it will be impossible for the people of Louisiana to trust anything the company says,’’ he said.

-- Richard Simon, in Washington