The USA Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee met yesterday for a hearing on "The Role Of BP In The Deepwater Horizon Explosion And Oil Spill," a satisfying occurance for outraged Americans who have watched millions of gallons of oil flow unchecked into the Gulf of Mexico for eight weeks and counting.
The headlining act during the hearing was BP's CEO Tony Hayward, an executive that has appeared in the media many times during this ordeal, often uttering phrases some considered damaging to the company.
This public rebuke was broken only by Republican Joe Barton of Texas, who seemed to think that although they facilitated the worst environmental disaster in American history, BP has endured enough. "I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or a corporation that does something that is legitimately wrong is subject to a shakedown," said Rep. Barton.
The "shakedown," Barton said, was President Obama's insistence that BP set up a $20 billion fund for claims filed by Gulf Coast victims; a fund that would be paid out without the oil giant's supervision. Barton, incidentally, has received $317,000 from the oil and gas industry donations since 2007. Most of the members on the committee have received a total of $1 million-plus since the start of last year $1.35 million since Jan. 2009. (CBS News).
During Haywards Testimony, some of his questioners were so passionate they wouldnt let him answer. It appeared they were playing to a domestic audience of their own voters. Some in Britain have even started to feel sorry for them, as though they are the scapegoat.
"Your answer 65 times that 'you don't know' doesn't leave us with confidence," snapped Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont.
One of the only straight answers Hayward promptly provided during the hearing led Rep. Mike Doyle, D-, Pa. to consider changing his career choice:
"My compensation last year was recorded, I think, at $6 million dollars," said Hayward. Those of you at the top don't seem to have a clue about what was going on on this rig. I'm sitting here thinking I could be the CEO of an oil company. It pays a little bit better than being a member of Congress," Doyle replied.
The only encouraging conclusion to come out of the hearing is the fact that BP's complete mishandling of the Gulf oil spill crisis is that it may support President Obama's demand that the MMS (Minerals Management Service) play a stronger role in regulating the actions of the oil industry, which in past years has been allowed to virtually regulate itself.
In Britain we see have been comparing this to other disasters such as Bhopal, Torrey Canyon, Piper Alpha and Amoco Cadiz, caused by USA companies.
Some people are saying that Trasnocean and Haliburton got off lighlty by comparison, see them criticized in Congress here and by Obama here.
It's worth noting than in the US Gulf of Mexico, blowouts are not rare occurrences: the US Minerals Management Service has investigated 18 blowouts and 13 "loss of well control" incidents since 1983, several involving fires and fatalities. In 1992, the Greenhill Petroleum blowout and fire sent 70,000-120,000 gallons of oil into Timbalier Bay, Louisiana. Blowouts happened twice in 2007, and the most recent loss of well control was in 2008. And many more, less-serious, incidents can be found here.
Lets not forget the republicans slogan "Drill, Baby, Drill" that some are now questioning. Others are using this as an oppertunity to push for renewables.
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