BP needs to come up with answers to our questions (Rep. John D. Dingell)

BP has a history of cutting corners and foregoing safety for the almighty dollar. Back in 2007, BP and its subsidiaries agreed to pay $50 million in criminal fines because of the 2005 explosion at its Texas City refinery. I note with dismay and irony that this is less than a day’s corporate profits. Like the explosion in the Gulf, we suffered the loss of human life at the Texas City refinery explosion - fifteen people were killed. Also in 2007 while the Subcommittee was investigating a leak in the Alaska Pipeline, we found that BP had let a pipe corrode, leading to a million liters of oil on Alaska’s North Slope. At the time I said this: “Workers were often forced to forgo safety measure to save money and to ultimately increase BP’s profits” and “yet these [safety] programs in many cases appear to have been halted or cut due to budgetary reasons. This is the cost of what we’ve learned about the way BP managed Prudhoe Bay. Until BP fully acknowledges the role cost cutting and budget pressures played in creating this mess, I fear other problems, like this, may be incurring at other BP facilities through the United States.”

Yesterday – the day Mr. Hayward testified – was day 59 of the worst environmental disaster in our Nation’s history. Eleven people died and an already fragile economy is in very real damage of shattering. We have no idea of the harm caused not only by the oil, but the techniques used to mitigate the oil, the chemical dispersants and the controlled burns. Of course, even now, on day 60, we can’t get a reliable estimate of how much oil is spewing into the Gulf.

Despite promises of Mr. Hayward when he took over at BP to make safety a top priority, we have found that yet again BP cut corners to save time and money. The well design was inappropriate, final tests were not performed and proper equipment was not used. Throughout the documentation received by the Committee references were made to the cost and timeliness of doing things right. In one case a BP employee said this: “But, who care’s, it’s done, end of story, will probably be fine and we’ll get a good cement job.”

Mr. Hayward, both before the hearing and during, has shown little true remorse for what has happened. Prior to the hearing he said, “the Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume.” And, “the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to be very, very modest.” When Mr. Hayward responded to claims that cleanup workers were becoming ill because oil fumes and such, he said, “food poisoning is clearly a big issue.” Finally and most famously, Mr. Hayward wants his life back.

During the hearing, Mr. Hayward consistently made statements like “I wasn’t involved in that decision” “I don’t know” and “I can’t speak to that until the investigation is complete.” Where does the buck stop at BP?

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