Lawmakers slam Big Oil executives on spill preparedness
At Tuesday's congressional hearing, legislators criticized four Big Oil companies for being no more prepared for a large spill than BP.
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"The fact that Dr. Lutz died in 2005 does not mean his work and the importance of his work died with him," Rex Tillerson, chairman of ExxonMobil said. "There are many other individuals identified in the plan ... those numbers are all valid."Skip to next paragraph
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But Markey wasn't satisfied.
"It just seems to me that if you include Dr. Lutz's phone number in your plan for a response that you have not taken this responsibility seriously."
"The plans need to be updated more frequently, " Mr. Mulva said. "Obviously it is embarrasing."
Later in the hearing, Rep. Clifford Stearns (R) of Florida hammered at what he called BP's early "low-ball" estimates of the amount of oil coming out of the well, which he said could have impaired response plans. The government now puts the well's output at somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 barrels a day. BP America chief Lamar McKay stated repeatedly his company gave its first estimates of 1,000-14,000 barrels per day to the unified command, which issued a 5,000 barrel per day estimate.
But Mr. Stearns wasn't happy.
"You should be resigning as charman of BP America," Stearns said, which drew applause from the audience. "I'm not looking for an apology, I'm looking for you to resign."
Other lawmakers tried to put the oil company failures into a larger context.
"Should taxpayers in the US continue to provide billions in subsidies to an industry, the oil industry, that's mature? To an industry that's extremely profitable – and to an industry based on carbon-based fuel?" Or, he asked, should the US be "redirecting to 21st century clean energy technology?"
If such sentiments prevail and build on one another, by August a full blown "stampede" could emerge to tightly regulate the industry, remove liability caps, and take on a raft of other measures – including moves to ban oil drilling in deep water, writes Kevin Book, an energy analyst for Washington energy-policy consulting firm ClearView Energy Partners, in an analysis of the recent hearings.
"We've seen a lot of blame deflection and finger-pointing and we would suggest it can go a lot further than it has," he wrote. But, he warned, "explicit finger pointing, after all, could give Congressional critics of offshore drilling an opportunity to spin ... attacks against BP into broader safety concerns that frame offshore drilling as 'unsafe at any depth.' "
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