BP's top executive told Congress on Thursday that he was "deeply sorry" for his company's massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, although he said it could take until August to stop the gusher of oil that has caused devastating economic and environmental damage.
BP PLC Chief Executive Tony Hayward told a House panel that his company will pay all necessary environmental costs and promised that BP "will be vigilant in our clean-up."
"I know that only actions and results, not mere words, can give you the confidence you seek," he said while testifying before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigation. "We are a strong company and no resources will be spared."
He added that BP engineers are still trying to determine exactly what went wrong.
Mr. Hayward's opening statements were interrupted by a shouting protester, who was escorted from the hearing room by police.
For more than an hour before the BP executive spoke, Democratic and Republican members of subcommittee took turns chastising Mr. Hayward, saying that he and his company repeatedly put profit over safety.
Subcommittee Chairman Bart Stupak, Michigan Democrat, called BP's role in the spill a ""wreckless disregard for safety."
"We have learned that, time after time, BP had warning signs that this was, as one employee put it, a 'nightmare well,'" Mr. Stupak said.
"BP made choices that set safety aside in exchange for cost-cutting and time-saving additions."
Rep. Henry Waxman, California Democrat, said that internal BP documents appear to show that the company "repeatedly took shortcuts that endangered lives and increased the risks of a catastrophic blow out."
"We've reviewed the 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," Mr. Waxman said.
The hearing has come a day after BP agreed to a $20 billion victims compensation fund.
But sounding a very different note, Rep. Joe L. Barton, Texas Republican, accused the Obama administration of using political pressure to extort compensation money from BP.
"I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, in this case, a $20 billion shakedown," Mr. Barton said.
The Republican's comments spurred a quick rebuttal from the White House, which called his comments "shameful."
"Congressman Barton may think that a fund to compensate these Americans is a ‘tragedy’, but most Americans know that the real tragedy is what the men and women of the Gulf Coast are going through right now," said the statement from the White House Press Office.
Newly disclosed documents obtained by the Associated Press show that after the Deepwater Horizon sank in Apirl, 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.
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