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Gulf oil spill: McCain rips well investors over financial liability

July 22, 2010 |  2:45 pm
The two companies with a financial interest in BP’s blown-out Gulf of Mexico well drew the ire of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) during a Senate hearing Thursday for withholding payments for the cost of the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

``I strongly recommend that you ... start paying some of these bills,’’ McCain told executives of Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and MOEX Offshore 2007 during their first appearance at a Capitol Hill spill hearing. ``I think it would be in the best interests of the people of this country and, frankly, the image of your corporations.’’

James T. Hackett, Anadarko’s chairman and chief executive, noted that BP is paying the bills. ``As long as the American taxpayer is kept whole, that's the key,’’ he told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee.

Anadarko, which owns 25% of the well, has said it wasn't responsible because of BP’s ``reckless’’ drilling decisions.  MOEX Offshore 2007, a subsidiary of Mitsui Oil Exploration Co., has a 10% interest in the well.

"We were not involved in any of the decision-making,’’ Naoki Ishii, MOEX president, said through an interpreter. ``We relied on BP.’’

He added that the company will honor ``all of our legal obligations. However, before we discuss that any further, it is important that we properly investigate and find out why this accident occurred.’’

Anadarko drew criticism from the other side of the aisle too.

``Why, just from a public perception, would you resist this?’’ Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) asked. ``It looks like you're not taking responsibility.... Why would you suffer that kind of public relations disaster?’’

Hackett said, ``We feel very strongly about this for our shareholders, our employees and our industry. We do not feel it is right for us to have to pay first. We think it's right that BP pay first. They publicly stated they're committed to doing it.’’

McCaskill quipped: ``Obviously, the lawyer department won out over the PR department.’’

-- Richard Simon in Washington