June 14th, 2010
06:12 PM ET
8 years ago

Oil execs to be grilled by leading BP critic

Washington (CNN) – One of BP's most outspoken critics on Capitol Hill says he does not think BP is alone in lacking contingency plans to deal with a massive oil spill.

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, will try to prove that theory Tuesday when the CEOs of five major oil companies come before his House Energy and Environment Subcommittee.

In an interview with CNN previewing his hearing, Markey said he thinks it’s "highly unlikely that any of these oil companies had a capacity to respond to a worst case scenario."

"Yes, they say in their representations to the Department of Interior that they have that capacity, but I don’t think there is any evidence that is in fact true," said Markey, standing in front of his chairman's desk in his committee hearing room.

The witness list for Tuesday's hearing includes chief executives of BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Conoco Phillips and Shell Oil.

Markey, a long time opponent of deepwater oil drilling, said the purpose of the hearing will be to "establish whether or not BP is the rule or the exception."

But even before any of the CEOs raise their hand to be sworn in, Markey seems to have concluded that BP's problems are the rule.

Markey said if other oil companies had contingency plans built into their systems, "we would have seen it thus far in giving support to BP to deal with this catastrophic event."

In advance of a separate hearing Thursday with BP CEO Tony Hayward, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman released a letter warning him to be prepared to answer questions about that investigation's early findings, that BP "repeatedly chose risky procedures in order to reduce cost and save time and made minimal efforts to contain the added risk."

Markey said he will use his hearing Tuesday with all of the big oil chiefs to probe BP's competitors about whether they have used similarly risky procedures on their oil rigs.

"What are the representations, the promises that the other oil companies can make that this kind of an accident would not have occurred," Markey said.

"But we have follow up questions. If an accident did occur, what in fact would be their response to make sure the oil did not hit the beaches and hurt the beaches and what would their liability be?"

Markey said he will also use the spectacle of five oil executives at a witness table to press them to back a push by many Democrats to eliminate the current $75 million dollar cap on liability costs.

"If we decide to bring legislation to Congress will we have the oil companies support for lifting that liability, and ensuring that it is unlimited to ensure those who create the problems are responsible for cleaning it up?" Markey said, previewing his question for the oil executives.

The last time Markey had five oil executives before his committee was in 2008, to press them about why the price of gasoline had gone above $4 a gallon.

Filed under: Ed Markey • Energy
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. AK Steve

    Give 'em hell Markey. Oil companies and their lobbyist have been running roughshod over laws and lawmakers for decades.

    It's time the Dems take a stand against backroom good old boy networks (remember Cheney's secret meeting with oil executives at the beginning of his first term... sealed documents and all).

    Make em pay. Get rid of the corrupt GOPers (and the Dems too, though I assume the "drill baby drill" fans are mostly GOPers).

    Oil is the crack cocaine of energy and the Govt let the oil execs get us hooked on the stuff. Time to pull the plug on this relationship and bring this country back to health.

    June 14, 2010 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  2. phoenix86

    Markey and Waxman have a vested interest in grilling BP. Both are pushing for Cap and Tax legislation.

    This is the McCarthy Hearings and the Salem Witch Hunt all rolled into one show.

    June 14, 2010 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  3. key

    I always felt BP response was containment first let's collect what we can save our well on the bottom of the ocean then worry about the environment or other industries

    June 14, 2010 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  4. Tom-Vermillion, Ohio

    It is long overdue to have in hand to have ALL facts in hand on exactly the oil industry works; from the 'discovery' of any given oil field to its displetion, complete with any and all technical, scientific, engineering, disaster, geological surveys, etc. information. This includes disaster plans, cleanup, etc. etc. Engineering Practices and Standards. I am interested in physical NOT legal facts and compensation. All this information must be made public for public scrutiny, analysis and speculation. (Maybe the public as a whole can foresee problems prior to their happening). Why does a ship when declared unsinkable seem to always sink sometime in its history? (And I'm not speaking about 'boats' in the water). I have found that no matter how 'great' an idea is, there is almost always a better idea. Intellectual Egotism seems to be the major problem here and elsewhere.

    June 14, 2010 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  5. Jeff Spangler

    Although Waxman and Markey are pretty good, I'd rather see highly focused cross-examination than the political grandstanding which usually occurs at Congressional hearings. Why waste time when you can nail the suckers down to indefensible positions with really good lawyering?

    June 14, 2010 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  6. Four and The Door

    These are exactly the questions that need to be addressed. Do any of these companies have adequate safety plans? If the anser is no, the federal government should move to shut these operations down immediately. That may be the only way to guarantee this will not happen again. Nothing is worth gambling on this kind of a disaster happening again. Nothing.

    June 14, 2010 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  7. dennis

    What does some old fart from Massivetwoshits know about the oil business?

    June 14, 2010 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  8. Dave

    These grandstanding politicians better watch what they do and say in the name of political gains... if they bankrupt the company, or destroy the companies profits, it's not going to do anyone any good for anyone and in addition, put millions more out of work... from what I've seen, we need the Coast Guard Admiral in charge of this as he's the only one who's made any sense to-date. If these politicians destroy the company the Gulf Coast Citizens and the rest of the American taxpayers are the ones who will suffer and end up paying for this. The president strolling down a beach and having his picture taken isn't helping anyone.

    June 14, 2010 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  9. ajax

    This is really going to get interesting.Like asking Congress what are their contingency plan if the terrorist set off a nuclear bomb in downtown New York city or L.A.Calif. Nothing gained from this other than political theater!!!

    June 14, 2010 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  10. Pragmatic

    Anyone who had a solution would have been implementing it by now: no one, not BP – not the government wanted this to happen.

    in the meantime, the Gulf governors want to continue drilling, Rand Paul whines that the President is "Un-American" by being "too tough" on BP ... and the GOP wants the $75 million dollar cap on liability costs to remain ... and Carley is making snarky remarks about Boxer's hair!

    June 14, 2010 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |