Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gulf oil spill: Oil execs scolded for 'cookie cutter' spill plans

By: Richard Simon
Los Angeles Times
June 15, 2010 | 1:28 pm

Oil company executives came under attack during congressional hearings Tuesday for having what Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) called "cookie cutter’’ oil spill response plans that are similar to, and no better than, BP’s plan in the Gulf of Mexico.

Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) asked Lamar McKay, chairman and president of BP America Inc., to "apologize to the American people’’ for his company’s underestimating the amount of oil spewing into the gulf, now pegged at between 20,000 and 40,000 barrels a day since the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

Update: A government panel on Tuesday revised that figure to 35,000 to 60,000.

Markey contended that "BP’s low-balling’’ was "either deliberate deception or gross incompetence.’’

"We are sorry for everything the Gulf Coast is going through,’’ McKay said, though he disputed that his company was responsible for the earlier estimates, which ranged from 1,000 barrels to 5,000 barrels in the early days of the disaster.

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) went further – calling on McKay to resign. "I really think in light of the performance of you as the CEO and what has occurred, I really think you should be resigning as chairman of BP America,’’ Stearns told McKay.

McKay did not respond.

Bringing up the devastating 1969 Santa Barbara spill during the hearing, Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) displayed pictures showing how a boom used then had barely changed from the booms being used today.
"I don’t see a lot of difference in technology between the cleanup in Santa Barbara and the cleanup now underway in the gulf,’’ she said.

The hearing came during what has become an almost daily frenzy of activity on Capitol Hill over the disaster, which killed 11 men and started the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

A group of lawmakers, mostly Republicans and some Democrats from the Gulf Coast, stepped up their efforts to get deep-water drilling underway again, underscoring that energy policy is often shaped by regional interest rather than party affiliation. The Obama administration has enacted a six-month moratorium on such drilling, pending the findings of a presidential panel investigating ways to prevent another disaster like this one.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) likened the moratorium to "taking a jackhammer to the bedrock of the Louisiana economy’’ that depends on energy production for jobs.

On Tuesday, a group of Democratic senators sent another letter to BP calling on the company to "refrain from setting aside any funds for a dividend payment until the amount of the damages related to the oil spill can be estimated and the company has established an escrow account to cover those costs.’’
Yet more spill-related legislation was introduced, including one that would require oil companies to drill emergency relief wells at all new offshore drilling sites.