BP’s Artful Dodge–Part III

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Thick stuff off Dauphin Island, Alabama, June 27, 2010 (Photo credit: US Coast Guard)

Following the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20, the US House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations, Committee on Energy & Commerce, began investigating the possible causes of the disaster. The Subcommittee, by way of a letter dated June 14,  invited BP’s CEO, Mr. Tony Hayward to testify. The hearings were held on June 17.  Below is an excerpt from the transcript of Mr. Hayward’s testimony.

Thick stuff off Dauphin Island, Alabama, June 27, 2010 (Photo credit: US Coast Guard)


Hayward and the Hearings

The committee for the hearings cycled through each member for five minutes of questions to BP.  Hayward was the only speaker for BP even though on several occasions his scientists and others were asked to speak. Instead, Hayward would give some nature of excuse as to why they weren’t qualified to answer the inquiry.

Over and over Hayward would indicate he wanted to wait for the investigation to be completed before he would offer an answer, almost to the question. When he wasn’t dodging with the investigation deflection, he would say he was not qualified to answer, stating he wasn’t a drilling engineer, or scientist, or whatever was needed to evade.

The investigative committee had worked for fifty – nine days to prepare for the hearings, reading thousands of pages of documents, and meeting for hours on end. They were well read on the subject and indeed, well prepared. Their questions were pertinent, and demanded information we all should know, not just the government entities. Hayward, however, was not cooperative, sitting at his microphone, aloof and evasive. His arrogance was stupefying, frustrating, and a perfect display of the corporate culture BP had fostered and clearly honed to a dangerous edge, as evidenced by the existing documents in this incident, and their history to include Houston and Prudhoe Bay.

It displayed exactly what happens when money is the only motive for decision making. Please bear in mind BP made almost $93 million a day in their first quarter. The money they are spending now is still a drop in their proverbial monetary barrel. Sure, they’ll take a hit here, but meanwhile, outside the U.S. they’re still making money hand over fist, with little regard for what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico outside of their public relations nightmare, which of course, they have brought on themselves. Hayward’s performance didn’t help that, but I’m sure he doesn’t care because he is clearly aware they can buy their way out of this predicament.

BP’s history is colored with a flagrant disregard for anything or anyone other than their shareholders. Proof lies, if nowhere else, in their history between June of 2007 and February of this year. BP received a total of 862 citations from OSHA. Incredibly, a bizarre 760 citations were classified as egregious and WILLFUL. WILLFUL! They purposely committed the complete fracturing of the law. Oh, and by the way, the next company in line had a mere eight citations, and was tied with another company.

Even yet, BP continues laughing in the face of the very spirit that is the people of the U.S., displaying a lack of respect for everything we, and much of the world holds dear, and doing it at great cost to our environment and our people, but at a relatively small price to BP.  The Gulf coast will pay through many avenues.

They will lose recreational fishing, costing them $1.1 billion, or two weeks pay for BP. They will lose that, and it supports other areas that support $2.5 billion in other sales, or roughly a month and a half pay for BP. When all is said and done BP will have made up their losses in probably six months, and our Gulf Coast will suffer for generations.

Just as BP easily paid almost $400 million in fines for CRIMINAL charges, not civil, they will attempt to buy their way out of this. All these points, and more, were succinctly raised and debated, but only by the committee. Hayward may have as well remained silent as far as his forthrightness is concerned. While he offered his sadness and statements about how the incident should not have happened, the rest was whitewash on a level seldom ever seen in history. Here is an excerpt from the transcript:

Mr. Stupak: …On May 25, our committee, Chairman Waxman and myself, put out a memo. It was based on BP’s preliminary report, and I am sure you are familiar with that report; are you not, sir?

Mr. Hayward: I am.

Mr. Stupak: And then on June 14, Chairman Waxman and I sent you a letter, 14 pages, where we talk about the crazy well and the nightmare well. Quite frankly, BP blew it. You cut corners to save money and time. And as the chief executive officer of BP, as I stated in my opening, you called for a leaner decision making process. You called for fewer people in the decision making process. You stated, individuals need to be accountable for risk and to manage risk. Therefore, BP’s leadership managed their risk in this well.  Did you manage the risk properly?

Mr. Hayward: Since I have been the CEO of this company, I have focused on safe, reliable operations. I have set the tone from the top by making it very clear to everyone in BP that safe, reliable operations are our number one priority. Of course, this is about more than words. Safety is about three things. It’s about plants, it’s about people, it’s about process. In the last 3 years, we have invested more than $14 billion in plant integrity.

Mr. Stupak: But then what happened here? I mean, the June 14 letter we put out the other day went through five major areas. The head of ?? the CEOs of the oil companies who were before this committee Tuesday all said you did it wrong. They never would have done a well this way. You made decisions, whether to do a casing or the string with the tie?back, which everyone said the tie?back would have been safer; the lockdown sleeves; centralizers, instead of doing 21 as was recommended, you only do 6. That defies the safety emphasis; does it not?

Mr. Hayward: We launched an investigation, which we have shared with yourself, Mr. Chairman, and all of your Members, which has identified seven areas. It’s identified areas around cements, casing, integrity pressure measurements, well control procedures, and three areas around the blowout preventer which failed to operate. An investigation is ongoing. It’s not complete. (This remained his primary answer throughout the entire hearing)

Mr. Stupak: Sure. But you are CEO of this company. You said you were here to answer the questions of the American people. You were an exploration manager, exploration manager with BP. You were the director of BP’s exploration. You were vice president of BP’s exploration and production. You hold a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh. Based on our May 12 hearing, the May 25 memo, our June 14 letter to you, based on all those facts, are you trying to tell me you have not reached a conclusion that BP really cut corners here?

Mr. Hayward: I think it’s too early to reach conclusions, with respect, Mr. Chairman. The investigations are ongoing. They have identified seven key areas, and when they complete ??

Mr. Stupak: Every one of those seven key areas, sir, dealt with saving time and saving money and accepting the risk. So if we use your own words, if you are going to hold BP accountable, then we have to manage the risk. Should leadership at BP be held accountable here?

Mr. Hayward: There is no doubt that I have focused on safe, reliable operations. We have made major changes in everything we do over the last 3 years. We change people

I would love to tell you there was more to the 245 pages than what I have presented here. I would be thrilled to present to you television lawyer worthy exchanges, with clever verbal manipulations that brought out the jaw dropping truth, but this is all there is. It’s just this frustrating, angering rhetoric about an investigation sixty days old and yet empty of substance. There’s nothing there. There’s nothing to be had except the excruciating knowledge BP has jammed the investigative river like a hundred beavers madly at work over a pure clear stream. His trees are all alike…in essence he has taken the BP fifth and backed up the information current, while the oil stream flows mostly free, drying up the lives of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, animals, and plants that support the life that is the Gulf of Mexico.

Lee Clymer is a writer for West Orlando News Online.  He can be reached at: wordsmithereen@gmail.com

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