Lawmakers Say U.S. Oil Companies Not Prepared for Disasters
Top industry executives testify on BP's massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico in a U.S. House of Representatives hearing on Tuesday.
Lawmakers took major oil companies to task for “boilerplate” plans to handle potential deepwater oil disasters.
Five oil executives from BP, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Royal Dutch Shell defended themselves against lawmakers who were not convinced that any of the companies had adequate contingency plans.
BP is struggling to contain oil that has gushed from a ruptured well for nearly two months in the worst spill in U.S. history.
Representative Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, criticized the companies' response plans for offshore accidents.
[Representative Ed Markey, Democrat, Massachusetts]:
"The American people deserve oil safety plans that are ironclad and not boilerplate. We now know the oil industry (SHELL PRESIDENT MARVIN ODUM LISTENING) and the government agency tasked with regulating them determined that there was a zero chance that this kind of undersea disaster could ever happen. When you believe that there is zero chance of disaster happening, you do zero disaster planning."
The hearings are a significant risk to BP and to the future of U.S offshore drilling.
U.S. lawmakers are considering legislative options to address the Gulf oil spill and to possibly increase the penalties companies will face.
The oil industry is seeking to stave off tough new regulations on offshore drilling that the government could impose.
They could range from blowout preventer certification to safety training.
Representative Henry Waxman, a Democrat, said BP had apparently taken “shortcuts” that increased the risk of a blowout.
[Congressman Henry Wasman, Democrat, California]:
"Yesterday, Chairman (Bart) Stupak (Democrat from Michigan) and I released a letter describing a series of questionable decisions made by BP in the days before the blow-out. Time after time, BP appears to have taken shortcuts that increased the risk of catastrophic blowout.”
In prepared remarks, Chevron CEO John Watson said it was important to find out what happened to cause BP's oil rig to explode to prevent similar accidents.
[John Watson, CEO, Chevron]:
"The Deepwater Horizon tragedy reinforces that all companies must operate with the same high standards of safety and reliability. It's clear that failure to do so does have dire consequences. Mr. Chairman, we must learn from this accident and we must make sure that it doesn't happen again."
The hearing came ahead of a scheduled televised address from the Oval Office by President Barack Obama on Tuesday evening.