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      'Shame on you': BP exec pilloried by lawmakers

      Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., holds an Associated Press photo taken by Charlie Riedel, of an oil covered pelican, the state bird of Louisiana, as he questions BP CEO Tony Hayward, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 17, 2010, during the House Oversight and Investigations subcommittee hearing on "the role of BP in the Deepwater Horizon Explosion and oil spill / AP Photo

      WASHINGTON (AP) " Channeling the nation's anger, lawmakers pilloried BP's boss in a withering day of judgment Thursday for the oil company at the center of the Gulf calamity. Unflinching, BP chief executive Tony Hayward said he was out of the loop on decisions at the well and coolly asserted, "I'm not stonewalling."

      That infuriated members of Congress even more, Democrats and Republicans alike.

      Testifying as oil still surged into the Gulf of Mexico and coated ever more coastal land and marshes, Hayward declared "I am so devastated with this accident," ''deeply sorry" and "so distraught."

      Yet the oil man disclaimed knowledge of any of the myriad problems on and under the Deepwater Horizon rig before the deadly explosion, telling a congressional hearing he had only heard about the well earlier in April, the month of the accident, when the BP drilling team told him it had found oil.

      "With respect, sir, we drill hundreds of wells a year around the world," Hayward told Republican Rep. Michael Burgess of Texas.

      "Yes, I know," Burgess shot back. "That's what scaring me right now."

      Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., told the CEO: "I think you're copping out. You're the captain of the ship." Democrats were similarly, if more predictably, livid.

      "BP blew it," said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., chairman of the House investigations panel that held the hearing. "You cut corners to save money and time."

      The verbal onslaught had been anticipated for days and unfolded at a nearly relentless pace.

      But in a jarring departure that caught fellow Republicans by surprise, Rep. Joe Barton, top GOP member of the panel, used his opening statement to apologize " twice " for the pressure put on the company by President Barack Obama to contribute to a compensation fund for people in the afflicted Gulf of Mexico states.

      Barton said the U.S. has "a due process system" to assess such damages, and he decried the $20 billion fund that BP agreed to Wednesday at the White House as a "shakedown" and "slush fund." He told Hayward, "I'm not speaking for anybody else. But I apologize."

      He later retracted his apologies to BP, then apologized anew " this time for calling the fund a "shakedown." ''BP should bear the full financial responsibility for the accident," he said, and "fully compensate those families and businesses that have been hurt by this accident."

      Barton's earlier remarks were clearly an embarrassment for the party. House Republican leaders John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Mike Pence issued a statement asserting: "Congressman Barton's statements this morning were wrong. BP itself has acknowledged that responsibility for the economic damages lies with them and has offered an initial pledge of $20 billion dollars for that purpose."

      Since 1990, oil and gas industry political action committees and employees have given more than $1.4 million to Barton's campaigns, the most of any House member during that period, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

      With multiple investigations continuing and primary efforts in the Gulf focused on stopping the leak, there was little chance the nation would learn much from Hayward's appearance about what caused the disaster. Yet even modest expectations were not met as the CEO told lawmakers at every turn that he was not tuned in to operations at the well.

      He said his underlings made the decisions and federal regulators were responsible for vetting them.

      Hayward spoke slowly and calmly in his clipped British accent as he sought to deflect accusations " based on internal BP documents obtained by congressional investigators " that BP chose a particular well design that was riskier but cheaper by at least $7 million.

      "I wasn't involved in any of that decision-making," he said.

      Were bad decisions made about the cement?

      "I wasn't part of the decision-making process," he said. "I'm not a cement engineer, I'm afraid."

      Also, "I am not a drilling engineer" and "I'm not an oceanographic scientist."

      What about those reports that BP had been experiencing a variety of problems and delays at the well?

      "I had no prior knowledge."

      At one point a frustrated California Rep. Henry Waxman, Democratic chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, interrupted the CEO. "You're kicking the can down the road and acting as if you had nothing to do with this company and nothing to do with the decisions. I find that irresponsible."

      Hayward quietly insisted: "I'm not stonewalling. I simply was not involved in the decision-making process."

      Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., voiced the committee's frustrations as the afternoon wore on. "You're really insulting our intelligence," he said. "I am thoroughly disgusted."

      Waxman told the BP executive that in his committee's review of 30,000 items, there was "not a single e-mail or document that you paid even the slightest attention to the dangers at this well."

      Burgess slammed both the CEO and the government regulators for a risky drilling plan that he said never should have been brought forward.

      "Shame on you, Mr. Hayward, for submitting it," he said, "but shame on us for accepting it, which is simply a rubber stamp."

      As Hayward began to testify, a protester disrupted the hearing and was forcibly removed from the room by Capitol police. The woman was identified as Diane Wilson, 61, a shrimper from Seadrift, Texas, near the Gulf Coast. Her hands stained black, she shouted to Hayward from the back of the room: "You need to be charged with a crime."

      Stupak, the subcommittee chairman and a former Michigan state trooper, noted that over the past five years, 26 people have died and 700 have been injured in BP accidents " including the Gulf spill, a pipeline spill in Alaska and a refinery explosion in Texas.

      Hayward argued that safety had always been his top priority and "that is why I am so devastated with this accident." When he became CEO in 2007, Hayward said he would focus "like a laser" on safety, a phrase he repeated on Thursday.

      Rep. John Sullivan, R-Okla., questioned BP's commitment to safety.

      BP had 760 safety violations in the past five years and paid $373 million in fines, Sullivan said. By contrast, Sunoco and ConocoPhillips each had eight safety violations and ExxonMobil just one, Sullivan said.

      "How in the heck do you explain that?" he asked Hayward. Hayward said most of those violations predated his tenure as CEO. "We have made major changes in the company over the last three to four years," he said.

      As of Thursday morning, the BP well had sent 66 million to 120 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, based on government daily spill rate figures.


      Associated Press writers Tom Raum, Matthew Daly, H. Josef Hebert, Seth Borenstein, Matt Apuzzo, Eileen Sullivan and Ben Feller in Washington and Harry Weber in Houston contributed to this report.

      Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

      For more news & multimedia on the Gulf oil disaster, visit our Oil Spill section .

      THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Read earlier story below.

      WASHINGTON (AP) " BP's humbled CEO sat grim-faced Thursday as a House chairman accused him of being oblivious to the risks of his company's deep water operations, then testified he was "deeply sorry" for the catastrophic Gulf coast oil spill.

      Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., told the BP executive that in his committee's review of 30,000 items, there was "not a single e-mail or document that you paid even the slightest attention to the dangers at this well."

      More than eight weeks after the spill began and a day after BP agreed to a $20 billion victims' compensation fund, Hayward said under oath to lawmakers that he was "personally devastated" by the April explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that triggered the giant spill " and that he understands the anger that Americans feel toward him and his company.

      Before beginning his own testimony, Hayward was buffeted by scathing criticism from lawmakers from both parties for more than an hour.

      Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, played a heard-wrenching video from a committee session on the Gulf Coast in which two widows whose husbands were killed in the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion suggested that GP had put profits before safety. "These are now widows with small children to take care of, and they are the symbols and the faces of this disaster," Braley said.

      Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, the senior Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, said he agreed with the call of Democrats on the panel for answers. But Barton accused the White House of conducting a "$20 billion shakedown" by requiring oil giant BP to establish a fund to compensate those hurt by the Gulf Coast oil spill.

      "I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House" on Wednesday, Barton said.

      But Rep. Ed Markey disagreed, saying it was "not a slush fund, not a shakedown. ... It was the government of the United States working to protect the most vulnerable citizens that we have in our country right now, the residents of the Gulf."

      "It's BP's spill," the Massachusetts Democrat said, "but it is America's ocean, and it is America's citizens who are being harmed. ... No, this is not a shakedown of the company."

      Rep. Michael Burgess, a Texas Republican, said that BP "appears to have taken their eye off the ball." Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn, told Hayward "BP has not learned from previous mistakes."

      Some of the sharpest criticism came from Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich. "We are not small people. But we wish to get our lives back," he told Hayward. "I'm sure you'll get your life back, and with a golden parachute to England."

      It was a reference to Hayward's much-criticized earlier remark that some day he hoped to get "my life back" and to comments on the White House driveway on Wednesday by BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg that "we care about the small people" of the Gulf Coast.

      Hayward received $4.7 million in 2009 in total salary, performance bonus and other non-cash compensation, roughly 27 percent higher than the $3.7 million he received a year earlier, according to an AP review of filings available on BP's Web site

      Hayward sipped a beverage and jotted notes as one lawmaker after another scorched him.

      A group of protesters milled in the hallway outside the hearing room, including Diane Wilson, 61, a fourth-generation fisher from Seadrift, Texas, near the Gulf Coast. Wilson, appearing with a black-stained hand, said she wanted to send a message: "Hayward should go to jail."

      She was joined by Ann Wright, 63, of Honolulu, Hawaii, who wore a BP hard hat, overalls and sunglasses adorned with dollar signs.

      "BP doesn't really care about this," she said, pulling out an oil-stained rubber ducky.

      Waxman opened the hearing with rare praise for the oil giant. "Yesterday, BP pledged to establish a $20 billion escrow account and to suspend its dividend payments for the rest of the year. I'm sure these were not easy decisions for you, but they were the right ones, and I commend you for them," he told the embattled CEO.

      But then the gloves came off. "When you became CEO of BP, you promised to focus like a laser on safe and reliable operations," Waxman said. "We wanted to know what you had done to keep this promise."

      "We could find no evidence that you paid any attention to the tremendous risks BP was taking. We've reviewed 30,000 pages of documents from BP, including your e-mails. There is not a single e- mail or document that shows you paid even the slightest attention to the dangers at this well."

      Waxman asserted that Hayward and his top deputies "were apparently oblivious to what was happening" and had been ignoring danger signs on the well in the days before it exploded.

      But Rep. Parker Griffith, R-Ala., offered counterpoint to the waves of criticism of BP. He suggested that cigarette smoking, not the BP oil spill, was the nation's worst environmental catastrophe.

      "This is not going to be the worst thing that's ever happened to America," Griffith said.

      As of Thursday morning, the BP well has gushed between 66 million and 120 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, based on government daily spill rate figures.

      In prepared testimony obtained by The Associated Press, Hayward said the explosion and sinking of the BP-operated rig "never should have happened " and I am deeply sorry that they did."

      Newly disclosed documents obtained by the AP show that after the Deepwater Horizon sank, BP made a worst-case estimate of 2.5 million gallons a day flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. That figure is far higher than the company had said publicly until this week, when the government released its own worst-case estimate of about that amount.

      The undated estimate by BP, apparently made sometime last month, reflected the actual situation as it was understood by BP at the time, said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. Grassley, the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, obtained the documents as part of an investigation into the oil spill and its aftermath.

      Grassley said it was not clear when exactly BP made the calculation. "Certainly Americans have a right to know that BP made these estimates, the date these estimates were determined and why they were not disclosed at that time," he said Wednesday.


      Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein, Matt Apuzzo and Eileen Sullivan contributed to this report.

      Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

      For more news & multimedia on the Gulf oil disaster, visit our Oil Spill section .

      THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Read earlier story below.

      BP CEO Tony Hayward is expected to appear before a House panel later today.

      Hayward plans to tell Congress he's "personally devastated" by the Gulf drilling rig explosion and oil spill and understands the anger Americans feel toward him and his company. He says "My sadness has only grown as the disaster continues."

      A copy of Hayward's testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's oversight and investigations subcommittee was obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.

      Hayward also says, "To be sure, neither I nor the company is perfect. He says, "we are unwavering in our commitment to fulfill all our responsibilities."

      Hayward says BP has spent nearly $1.5 billion since the April 20 explosion, and won't stop until the job is done.

      For more news & multimedia on the Gulf oil disaster, visit our Oil Spill section .