As hearings commenced on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster last month, members of Congress chastised the largest oil companies, accusing them of being no better prepared than BP to avert an environmental catastrophe. As the oil executives testified at a House hearing, Rep. Henry Waxman asserted that the companies’ spill response plans amounted to “paper exercises” that mirrored BP’s failed plan. According to the California Democrat, the companies’ strategies to plug a spill deep beneath the sea are the same failed strategies that have stymied BP. Rep. Waxman said the other companies “are no better prepared to deal with a major oil spill than was BP.” Interestingly, the executives for the other oil companies tried to distance themselves from BP, telling lawmakers they would not have drilled the Deepwater Horizon well in the same way the British company did. They even said some of BP’s design decisions and actions may have jeopardized well integrity.
I don’t believe the American people had any idea how much money the oil companies have been making. The five companies, including BP, appearing on Capitol Hill, have a combined worth of $776 billion and earned $64 billion last year. As a matter of interest, BP paid CEO Tony Hayward $4.7 million last year, while spending only $10 million on research. That certainly seems out of balance. One report put Hayward’s total compensation package much higher.
Rep. Waxman’s committee released documents that showed BP made a series of money-saving shortcuts and blunders that dramatically increased the danger of a destructive spill from a well that an engineer ominously described as a “nightmare” just six days before the April blowout. Investigators found that BP was badly behind schedule on the project and losing hundreds of thousands of dollars with each passing day. The investigators say that BP responded by cutting corners in the well design, cementing and drilling efforts and the installation of key safety devices. “Time after time, it appears that BP made decisions that increased the risk of a blowout to save the company time or expense,” Rep. Waxman and Rep. Bart Stupak, (D-MI), chairman of the committee’s investigations panel, wrote in a letter. Hopefully, Congress will take all required steps to make sure that a disaster such as the one caused by BP never happens again. All of the victims of this disaster must be fully compensated for both their losses and damages, both in the past, and also for the future. It’s also critically important that all responsible for this disaster be punished severely.
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