ABC News: BP CEO Feels Heat on Capitol Hill

September 27, 2013 Updated Jun 17, 2010 at 11:18 AM EDT

By ABC News Business Unit


ABC News: BP CEO Feels Heat on Capitol Hill

September 27, 2013 Updated Jun 17, 2010 at 11:18 AM EDT

WASHINGTON, D.C. (ABC) -- When Tony Hayward became CEO of energy giant BP in 2007, he promised to "focus like a laser" on safety. Members of Congress today repeatedly reminded Hayward of that promise as they lambasted the British executive for his and BP's actions leading up to the mammoth spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"As the entire country now knows, an uncontrolled blowout can kill rig workers and cause an environmental disaster," House Committee of Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., told Hayward, who is scheduled to testify before the House later this morning.

After reviewing 30,000 documents, Waxman said, the committee could "find no evidence that you paid any attention to the tremendous risks BP were taking."

"BP cut corner after corner to save a million dollars here, a few hours or days there," he said. "And now whole Gulf coast is paying the price."

Though most congressmen directed their criticism at Hayward and BP, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, also faulted the Obama administration, calling the $20 billion damages fund that BP recently agreed to a "shakedown."

"I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday," Barton said, referring to the meeting between President Obama and Hayward on Tuesday that led up to the $20 billion announcement. "I do not want to live in a country where anytime a citizen or a corporation that does something that is legitimately wrong is subject to some sort of political pressure which ... amounts to a shakedown."

Hayward, 53, has become the face of the oil spill and the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which killed 11 men and devastated Gulf shores. In a letter to Hayward earlier this week, from Waxman and Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., Hayward was warned that he should come prepared to address BP's "questionable decisions."

In written testimony prepared for the hearing, Hayward said "full answers" on the cause of the explosion won't come out until the conclusions of investigations by U.S. government agencies and by BP itself.

"I understand people want a simple answer about why this happened and who is to blame. The truth, however, is that this is a complex accident, caused by an unprecedented combination of failures," he said. "A number of companies are involved, including BP, and it is simply too early to understand the cause. There is still extensive work to do."

The company, he said, is concentrating on stopping the flow of oil by drilling two relief wells, as well as deploying equipment that has recently allowed BP to collect 15,000 barrels of oil per day. BP expects to increase its collection further in the next few days through the use of other equipment, he said.

Hayward said the company has paid out more than $90 million on damage claims and is expediting payments of $16 million more this week to businesses hurt by the disaster. The company has spent $1.5 billion on the oil spill cleanup thus far, he said, "and we will not stop until the job is done."

The CEO acknowledged, however, that there's little he can say to quell public anger about the spill.

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