Oil Industry Execs Testify at Oil Spill Hearing

Don't rush to judgment, they tell Senate panel

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The three companies responsible for the spill in the Gulf of Mexico—British Petroleum, Transocean and Halliburton—appeared in the second panel of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. They’ll also appear this afternoon before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, making it a long day under the congressional microscope for these companies.

Lamar McKay (President of BP America Inc.), Steve Newman (President and CEO of Transocean) and Tim Probert (President of Global Business Lines for Halliburton) stressed that more information is needed before a rush to judgment about the disastrous spill.

Newman said that "until we know what happened, we cannot determine the best route for the future." This comment supports the "time out" Earthjustice is asking President Obama to take on drilling offshore in the Arctic Ocean. There is still much scientific data needed to ensure a spill such as the one that happened in the Gulf doesn’t happen again.

New York Times reporter Matt Wald is also live blogging the hearing, and pulled this great gem from Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who took the opportunity during the first panel to show his disdain for the companies appearing in the second panel:

"I can already see the liability chase," he said. “It’s like a bit of a Texas two step. Yes, we’re responsible, but BP says Transocean, Transocean says Halliburton." Referring to the experts who have testified so far, he said, “I’m looking forward to that second panel to see who is going to fess up to what."

He went on, “I think it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that there is no such thing as ‘too safe to spill.’”

Sen. Murkowski began her questioning of the Big Three by agreeing with Sen. Menendez’s statement, noting that in their written testimony, BP put the blame on the rig operator, Transocean; Transocean put the blam on the rig contractor, Halliburton; and then Halliburton put the blame on the rig owner, BP. This merry-go-round of blame suggests no one wants to take responsibility for this disaster. Sen. Murkowski suggested instead to the Big Three, "We are all in this together."

Sen. Bingaman said the committee would take a short recess after Sen. Murkowski’s question, so stay tuned for more details throughout the afternoon.

Jared was the head coach of Earthjustice's advocacy campaign team from 2004 to 2014.