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Hayward testimony: BP contrite, but not ready to take all blame

BP CEO Tony Hayward, testifying Thursday in Congress about the Gulf oil spill, said other firms are involved and it's too soon to assign blame. Lawmaker cites BP 'complacency' toward safety.

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BP CEO Tony Hayward answers a question as he testifies about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico at the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill Thursday.

Larry Downing/Reuters

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BP chief executive Tony Hayward came under withering attack at a House hearing on Thursday for paying little attention to risks being run at the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig before it exploded and caught fire on April 20.

Mr. Hayward sat grim-faced as lawmaker after lawmaker excoriated his firm – and Mr. Hayward personally – for an oil spill that may constitute the greatest environmental disaster in US history.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D) of California, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said internal BP e-mails and briefing papers revealed no hint that either Hayward himself or his firm’s top drilling and exploration officials knew or cared about warnings from Deepwater Horizon workers that they were drilling what one called a “nightmare well.”

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“BP’s corporate complacency is astonishing,” said Representative Waxman.

Thursday’s hearing before the House energy panel’s investigations subcommittee followed an almost preordained storyline of Hayward expressing contrition while lawmakers used him as a convenient target to show constituents they are being tough on BP.

Opening statements from lawmakers ran almost 1-1/2 hours. Hayward’s own opening statement was then interrupted by a protester, who appeared to be slathered with oil, leaping up and saying the CEO should “go to jail.”

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