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Gulf oil spill: Congressional hearings begin with attack on BP

June 17, 2010 |  7:39 am
Greeted by signs that proclaimed “BP kills,” the company's chief executive, Tony Hayward, came to Congress on Thursday to apologize for his and the company’s role in the nation’s worst environmental disaster.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), the House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman, immediately set a harsh tone that was expected to dominate the day. The panel will focus on what needs to be done to prevent future disasters, Waxman said, then explained how the committee’s reading of BP documents showed the company “repeatedly took shortcuts, endangered lives and increase risks of a catastrophic blowout.”

Waxman said that “there is not a single e-mail or document that shows you paid even the slightest attention to the dangers at this well,” adding later that the documents showed that BP “cut corner after corner to save a million dollars here and a few hours or days there. And now the whole Gulf Coast is paying the price.”

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), a subcommittee chairman, complained about what he said was BP's "cavalier attitude toward assessing risk."

Throughout the hostile comments, Hayward sat stoically at the witness table, appearing to take notes.

Waxman did praise BP for agreeing to $20-billion escrow fund to aid the victims of the disaster.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the committee’s ranking GOP member, set the partisan tone for the day by using his opening statement to attack the fund, calling it a “shakedown” engineered by the White House.

-- Richard Simon in Washington

-- Michael Muskal in Los Angeles


BP CEO Tony Hayward in the hot seat