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Lawmakers slam Big Oil executives on spill preparedness

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The wide-ranging hearing saw lawmakers hitting on an increasingly familiar litany of issues, including whether to lift the liability cap for oil spills and whether to escrow BP funds.

Still, the legislators seemed to be zeroing in on specific industry practices that may be the subject of new regulation or legislation, including such esoteric industry topics as the cementing of wells and well-casing procedures.

An even bigger focal point, however, was the degree of preparedness of each of the companies. Several lawmakers made the point that the companies made a show of being prepared for a worst-case spill, but in fact were no more prepared than BP was.

Some Republican members of the panel, like Rep. Fred Upton from Michigan, appeared to try to ride to the rescue of the beleaguered executives. "Jobs, environment, economy" were the big issues, he said, dismissing what he called calculated attempts by some on the panel to make renewable energy and a push for a climate-energy bill the focus of the hearing.

"This [hearing] reminds me of a radio call-in talk show after the Redskins have blown another one," said Joe Barton (R) of Texas. "It's very easy to second guess and point out the problems."

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