Late last month, Mississippi state House Speaker Billy McCoy (D) and Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant (R) created a select committee to investigate the Gulf Coast oil spill. “[T]he people of Mississippi deserve to know how this happened and what the future may hold for this most valuable part of our state,” said McCoy. A key part of the select committees’ mission would be to hold hearings with top officials from companies responsible for the spill.
However, yesterday, BP wrote a letter saying it wouldn’t be showing up for the three-day hearings this week. ThinkProgress obtained the letter to McCoy, addressed from Margaret D. Laney, BP’s Mississippi Coordinator for Public and Government Affairs. From the letter:
I regret that we are unable to accommodate your invitation to participate Wednesday or Thursday in the hearing of the Mississippi House of Representatives Select Committee on the Gulf Coast Disaster.
We at BP take very seriously the desire of the Select Committee to gather information on the circumstances on the Mississippi coast relative to the oil spill. We are committed to meeting regularly with stakeholders along the Gulf Coast and to providing briefings for government officials on a regular basis, and we will continue to remain engaged in this way. When we meet with the Committee, it will be important for us to have appropriate BP representatives who are implementing the strategic response plan for Mississippi and working in the Mississippi Gulf Coast area. Unfortunately, the appropriate individuals are not available this week. We would be pleased to work with the Select Committee to identify a day in the near future for another meeting of the Committee — either in Jackson or on the Coast where the Committee also can visit incident response operations.
McCoy was suspicious of the corporations’ refusal to testify, stating, “Considering the many officials BP has on standby in the Gulf Coast region, it is simply incomprehensible that the company could not send at least one to these hearings to give our citizens, lawmakers and business leaders their viewpoint on this oil spill disaster. We are not holding these hearings to conduct a witch hunt.” “Every one of BP’s public pronouncements has been as produced and careful as the Tiger Woods’ apology,” Rep. Brandon Jones (D) added. “What we want is for them to answer the hard questions and give us a sense of what is going on. By not showing up, it just leaves all that to our imagination and it breeds frustration.”
The last hearings BP, Halliburton, and Transocean officials attended didn’t go so well because they were all trying to pass blame for the spill and received widespread condemnation. The Washington Post noted that at last month’s Capitol Hill hearings, senior executives were “pointed fingers” at each other the whole time.