BP CEO Tony Hayward: 'I Wasn't Involved' in Deepwater Horizon Plans

BP CEO Tony Hayward
BP CEO Tony Hayward

The buck stops. . .somewhere else.

Embattled BP (BP) CEO Tony Hayward told the House Energy and Commerce Committee Thursday that he "wasn't involved" with the decisions leading up to Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and thus "can't pass judgment on those decisions."

Nearly two months into the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, lawmakers repeatedly tried to extract specific answers from the oil executive, with virtually no success. Instead, Hayward stuck closely to corporate talking points in which he expressed contrition and tried to empathize with the victims of the catastrophe.

The Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 workers and sent millions of gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico "never should have happened, and I am deeply sorry that it did," Hayward said, during questioning by committee members.

Too Soon to Say What Went Wrong

Hayward spoke in a soft, deliberate voice -- almost as if he wanted to put the members to sleep -- and saw little need to conform his answers to the questions he was asked. Pressed by lawmakers over and over to explain what went wrong, with almost two months of hindsight, Hayward said: "I think it's too early to reach conclusions," because "the investigations are ongoing."

The CEO seemed to distance himself from the actual engineering or mechanical failures that caused the rig to blow up. "Those were decisions taken by the engineering team," he said.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) accused Hayward of "stonewalling." Said Waxman: "I'm amazed at this testimony. You're not taking responsibility. You are kicking the can down the road, acting as if you have nothing to do with these decisions. I find that amazing."

"I'm not stonewalling," the BP CEO replied. "I simply was not involved in the decision-making process."

Unanswered Questions

Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), the oversight and investigations subcommittee chairman, expressed frustration that Hayward was unable to answer the five questions the committee specifically asked him to prepare for in a letter sent to BP. "You haven't answered one," Stupak said. "Not one."

Rep. Edward Markey, the powerful Massachussetts Democrat, pressed Hayward to acknowledge large underwater plumes of oil that government and independent scientists have identified. But Hayward dodged that one, too, even suggesting that some of the underwater oil may have come from a source "other" than the Deepwater Horizon spill.

"I'm going to take that as a no," Markey said, and Hayward didn't challenge him. "Your testimony continues to be at odds with all established scientists," Markey said.