Thursday, 10 June 2010

'Kick-ass' Obama attacks BP chiefs Hayward

From The Times, UK, 10 June 2010

BP may have hoped yesterday to boast of its first real progress in containing the leaking well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.

Instead, it faced a harsh personal attack on its chief executive from President Obama and a devastating new report that called the company a “recurring environmental criminal”.

Even as US government analysts said that the top cap installed over the well last week was finally capturing up to three quarters of the oil rising to the well head, Mr Obama lashed out at Tony Hayward, saying that he would have fired him for a series of remarks that have already made the BP CEO a lightning rod for the growing fury of Gulf Coast residents.

“He wouldn’t be working for me after any of those statements,” Mr Obama said, when asked for his reaction to Mr Hayward’s claim last month that the environmental impact of the spill would be “very, very modest” and his admission that “I would like to have my life back”.

Mr Hayward will testify before Congress next week for the first time since the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

Mr Obama has frequently answered those who criticise his handling of the crisis by saying that his job is to solve the problem and co-ordinate the clean-up, rather than vent. However, he used an interview broadcast yesterday on NBC to do just that.

In the process, he revealed what appears to be a complete breakdown of trust between the White House and BP’s high command. Asked why he had not yet spoken directly to Mr Hayward, 49 days into the disaster, Mr Obama said: “Here’s the reason: because my experience is, when you talk to a guy like a BP CEO, he’s gonna say all the right things to me. I’m not interested in words. I’m interested in actions.”

Mr Obama also gave the clearest signal yet that his Administration may use evidence of negligence in the days and weeks before the blowout to build a criminal case against BP, potentially adding billions of dollars to the company’s liabilities.

“Initial reports indicate that there may be situations in which not only human error was involved, but you also saw some corner-cutting in terms of safety,” he told NBC’s Today Show.

The claim was supported by Courtney Kemp, the widow of one of the 11 men killed when the rig blew up. Testifying before Congress’s House Energy and Commerce Committee, Mrs Kemp said that her husband had been concerned for weeks before the explosion about the difficulties that engineers were having in controlling the well. “This well was different in the fact that they were having so many problems,” she said. “It was just kind of out of hand.”

The pressure to ensure that heads roll at BP will only mount with the publication of a new report on BP’s record of spills and accidents — the worst of any oil major operating in North America. The company pleaded guilty in 1999 to illegally dumping oil off the north coast of Alaska, failed to update vital equipment and safety systems at its Alaskan base in Prudhoe Bay and allowed a “fundamental culture of mistrust” to fester between workers and management there, according to the report by ProPublica, a non-profit research organisation.

“They are a recurring environmental criminal and they do not follow US health, safety and environmental policy,” Jeanne Pascal, a former lawyer for the US Environmental Protection Agency, told ProPublica.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Have you seen the Express' front cover headline today? It's incredible!