TP’s daily Progress Report has a good update on the BP oil disaster, the company’s malfeasance, and its friends in Congress:
Last month, BP CEO Tony Hayward lamented the continuing Gulf oil spill crisis was preventing a return to his privileged life of skiing and sailing. “There’s no one who wants this over more than I do,” said Hayward. “I would like my life back.” While Hayward, who is still in charge of BP operations, apologized for his remarks, the perception that the oil giant’s chief executive does not recognize the effect his company’s oil spill is having on the Gulf Coast economy and environment became even more apparent this weekend. “Two days after Mr. Hayward angered lawmakers on Capitol Hill with his refusal to provide details during testimony about the worst offshore oil spill in United States history,” photographers spotted Hayward on his yacht, which was competing at the JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race off the Isle of Wight in the English Channel. But while Hayward relaxes on his yacht, millions of gallons of oil continue to gush in the Gulf sending crude as far east as Panama City, FL. As the disaster continues to devastate the economy, reports of the spill’s ravaging effects on the Gulf Coast’s environment and local wildlife persist — “a rare and endangered species of sea turtle is being burned alive in BP’s controlled burns of the oil swirling around the Gulf of Mexico, and a boat captain tasked with saving them says the company has blocked rescue efforts.”
OFFICIALS CHASTISE HAYWARD: Yesterday on ABC’s This Week, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said Hayward yachting off the English coast during the oil crisis is “part of a long line of P.R. gaffes and mistakes.” “[T]o quote Tony Hayward, he has got his life back,” Emanuel said, adding, “I think we can all conclude that Tony Hayward is not going to have a second career in PR consulting.” Other lawmakers were more critical of Hayward, seeming to acknowledge that the situation is beyond PR crises and that Hayward and BP appear to lack any understanding of the Gulf spill’s disastrous consequences. On CBS’s Face the Nation yesterday, Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA) said he is “very disappointed at how out of touch the executives at BP are.” On the same program, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) called on Hayward to step down. “I thought the fact that the chairman of BP had the gall, the arrogance, to go to a yacht race…in England, while all of this was going on here was the height of stupidity. And I believe myself that he should go,” Shelby said.
HAYWARD’S GOP FRIENDS: One of Hayward’s friends on Capitol Hill, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), last week apologized to Hayward for what he perceived as a White House “shakedown” of BP and its executives. Many Republicans and conservative pundits leaped to Barton’s defense. The Republican Study Committee (RSC) concurred with Barton, firing off a statement declaring that the $20 billion dollar escrow account negotiated by BP and the Obama administration for victims of the oil catastrophe in the gulf is a “Chicago-Style Political Shakedown.” Reps. John Fleming (R-LA) and Jim Jordan (R-OH) agreed with the RSC and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said he shares Barton’s concerns. Indeed, New York Times’ columnist Frank Rich noted, “The spill’s sole positive benefit has been to unambiguously expose the hard right, for all its populist pandering to the Tea Partiers, as a stalking horse for its most rapacious corporate patrons.” Other Republicans weren’t as eager to come to Barton’s defense. “I couldn’t disagree with Joe Barton more,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell yesterday on Fox News Sunday. “[I]t somewhat baffles me with respect to why he apologized to BP,” Cao said. “I condemn Mr. Barton’s statement. Mr. Barton’s remarks are out of touch with this tragedy and I feel his comments call into question his judgment and ability to serve in a leadership on the Energy and Commerce Committee,” Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) said. Republicans told Barton last week that he should either apologize for his remarks or face losing his Energy Committee chairmanship. Hours later, Barton backtracked. “I apologize for using the term ‘shakedown’ with regard to yesterday’s actions at the White House this morning, and I retract my apology to BP,” he said in a statement.
MORE BP MALFEASANCE: An employee who worked on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded last April causing the oil spill has told the BBC that he had identified a leak in the rig’s blowout preventer safety device weeks before the explosion and informed BP about it. The worker, Tyrone Benton, said the leak was not fixed in time and, instead, the company relied on a second preventer. “That is unacceptable,” Professor Tad Patzek, petroleum expert at the University of Texas, said. “If you see any evidence of the blowout preventer not functioning properly, you should fix it by whatever means possible.” Additionally, Congressional investigators have found that BP used a well design the investigators labeled as “risky” in more than one-third of its deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico. The Wall Street Journal reports that BP used the cheaper “long-string” design “significantly more often than most peers” — including on the Deepwater Horizon rig. “The decision,” says a letter from Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Bart Stupak (D-MI), “appears to have been made to save time and reduce costs.” Moreover, a newly released internal BP document shows that the oil giant estimated that up to 4.2 million gallons of oil per day could gush from a damaged well in the Gulf. Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) said in a press release that BP’s estimate stands “in sharp contrast to BP’s initial claim that the leak was just 1,000 barrels a day.”