BP boss ducks questions on Hill 

Tony Hayward, the embattled head of BP, took his punishment with patience but little enthusiasm as he sat before a committee of angry lawmakers who grilled and chastised him at a daylong hearing on the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Hayward's apology during his opening remarks did little to soften up the committee, nor did his attitude as the day went on and he answered question after question in monotone with few specifics.

At one point, Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., became so frustrated with Hayward's pattern of dodging answers about the accident that he asked him, "Is today Thursday? Yes or no?"

The hearing opened with Hayward telling Congress he is "deeply sorry" for the spill, which he said "never should have happened," and pledged "we are doing everything we can to secure the well and in the meantime contain the flow of oil."


Texas congressman slips on oil spill

Republicans suffered collateral damage from the hearing after Energy and Commerce ranking member Joe Barton, R-Texas, an oil company ally, apologized to Hayward over the $20 billion fund the company was asked to set aside by the White House to cover damages.

"I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday," Barton said. "I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, in this case, a $20 billion shakedown."

Barton's comments drew quick and stern criticism from both parties and from the Obama White House. House Republican leaders threatened to yank Barton off the committee over the incident, and Barton retracted his statement and apologized for making it.


Before he began speaking, a woman who appeared to be covered in oil hollered from the back of the hearing room that Hayward should be "charged with a crime." She was dragged out by the police.

Hayward did not stray far from the general theme of his opening remarks. Despite question after question about the specifics of the accident and BP's safety policies, Hayward mostly told members he could not provide the answers because the investigation of the accident is still ongoing, or because he was "not involved in the decision making on the day," of the accident or some of the actions in question predated his tenure as chief executive officer.

Near the conclusion of the hearing, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., told Hayward, "you've consistently ducked and evaded our questions and your evasions will make our job more difficult. ... I think that is is regrettable and an unfortunate approach for you to take to the Congress of the United States."

Lawmakers' questions focused on how the accident happened and whether BP ignored warnings about potential problems caused by cutting corners on the construction of the rig, which BP engaged in to save time and money.

"Why did you elevate profitability over safety?" Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., asked.

"I don't believe we did elevate profitability over safety," Hayward responded.

Hayward at one point told the panel he was accompanied by a technical adviser, but did not consult him until he was ordered to do so by one lawmaker. The adviser, a drilling engineer, was unable to answer the question, which concerned the integrity of the concrete used to construct the sunken Deepwater Horizon rig now gushing up to 60,000 barrels of oil each day into the Gulf.

"I think the evasiveness of your answers only serves to increase, not decrease the frustration not only of the members of the committee, but the American people," said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who heads the Energy and Commerce subcommittee that conducted the hearing.


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