Oil executives face U.S. Congress on Gulf spill

* Oil executives to appear before two Senate panels

* Company heads blame each other for the accident

* Executives do not offer safety recommendations

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON, May 11 (BestGrowthStock) – Protesters and angry
lawmakers greeted top executives of companies involved with the
Gulf of Mexico’s massive oil spill at a U.S. congressional
hearing in which the company leaders were poised to blame each
other for the unfolding environmental disaster.

Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman opened the
hearing saying that senators were likely to hear that the oil
rig explosion and oil spill were due to a “cascade of errors.”

Lamar McKay, president of BP America Inc (BP.L: ), Steven
Newman, president of Transocean Ltd (RIGN.S: ), and Tim Probert,
a senior executive of Halliburton Co (HAL.N: ), will face intense
questions before two Senate committees.

Based on their written testimonies to the Senate Energy and
Natural Resources Committee, and to a later hearing of the
Environment and Public Works Committee, the executives will
blame each others’ companies for last month’s rig explosion and
for the failure to control the oil slick threatening the U.S.
Gulf Coast.

Arriving for the hearing, the executives were met by
protesters holding signs saying “Boycott BP” and “BP Kills,”
while six young women wore T-shirts with the words, “Energy
shouldn’t cost lives.” Black tears were inked onto their faces.
It is the first public inquiry into the oil spill.

<^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

TAKE A LOOK on the spill [ID:nSPILL]

Breakingviews column [ID:nN07274242]

INSIDER TV: http://link.reuters.com/wed53k

Graphic: http://link.reuters.com/xeh23k

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^>

About 1,000 miles (1,600 km) away, National Guard troops
spread across the Louisiana coastline preparing to battle the
oil that was approaching from the Gulf of Mexico. At least
5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons/795,000 litres) of crude per day
continue to gush out of an underwater well that ruptured on
April 20 when a BP-leased oil rig exploded and sank.

The hearings, which are expected to continue in coming
weeks, could lead to new legislation on drilling practices or
help lay the groundwork for additional regulation by the Obama
administration.

The companies face intense political pressure in the
aftermath of the April 20 explosion that killed 11 workers and
sank Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon rig as it was finishing a
well for BP. [ID:nN10167750]

PROTECT WORKERS

The executives in their testimonies did not offer
recommendations on how to protect workers from such explosions
in the future or how to better prevent and control oil spills
in the Gulf’s very deep waters.

U.S. President Barack Obama met on Monday with Cabinet
members responding to the oil spill, including Interior
Secretary Ken Salazar and Homeland Security Secretary Janet
Napolitano.

The White House said it was deciding on its next steps and
working to ensure all is being done to contain the slick and
mitigate the environmental impact.

Halliburton joins BP and Transocean because it provided a
variety of services on the rig and was involved in cementing
the well to stabilize its walls and plug it.

Transocean’s prepared testimony for Tuesday’s hearings pins
the explosion on the failure of this cementing or casing to
plug the underwater well.

“The one thing we know with certainty is that … there was
a sudden, catastrophic failure of the cement, the casing or
both,” according to Newman’s prepared remarks.

Transocean’s Newman also said the rig blew three days after
the drilling was completed and the well had been sealed with
cement. “It is also clear that the drill crew had very little
(if any) time to react,” Newman said. “The explosions were
almost instantaneous.”

With attempts to contain the oil spill unsuccessful so far,
some lawmakers have questioned the adequacy of the companies’
response to the accident.

David Nagel, executive vice president for BP America, on
Monday defended his company’s response to the accident.

“In terms of the spill response: that was mobilized right
away,” Nagel told reporters at a press briefing in Washington.

He said the failure of Transocean’s blowout preventer is
what “turned this incident into a really tragic situation.”

“This was the last step in a series of safety steps to
control the situation … and it was expected to work,” Nagel
said.

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives and the Senate
have introduced legislation that would raise to $10 billion the
amount of money BP would be responsible to dole out for
economic losses caused by the spill. [ID:nN0560535]

The oil spill casts further uncertainty on the fate of the
Senate compromise climate bill set to be released this week,
already struggling to muster Republican support.

Some coastal state Democrats have threatened to oppose the
legislation, which is expected to include measures promoting
offshore drilling in new areas.

The oil company executives will return to Capitol Hill on
Wednesday, when they will testify about the oil spill before a
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee.

Stock Market News

(Writing by Richard Cowan and Russell Blinch; Additional
reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Simon Denyer and Will
Dunham)

Oil executives face U.S. Congress on Gulf spill