“BP And Its Apologists”
June 21, 2010, 12:00pm

From: The Progress Report.

Last month, BP CEO Tony Hayward lamented the continuing Gulf oil spill crisis was preventing a return to his privileged life of skiing and sailing. “There’s no one who wants this over more than I do,” said Hayward. “I would like my life back.” While Hayward, who is still in charge of BP operations, apologized for his remarks, the perception that the oil giant’s chief executive does not recognize the effect his company’s oil spill is having on the Gulf Coast economy and environment became even more apparent this weekend. “Two days after Mr. Hayward angered lawmakers on Capitol Hill with his refusal to provide details during testimony about the worst offshore oil spill in United States history,” photographers spotted Hayward on his yacht, which was competing at the JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race off the Isle of Wight in the English Channel. But while Hayward relaxes on his yacht, millions of gallons of oil continue to gush in the Gulf sending crude as far east as Panama City, FL. As the disaster continues to devastate the economy, reports of the spill’s ravaging effects on the Gulf Coast’s environment and local wildlife persist — “a rare and endangered species of sea turtle is being burned alive in BP’s controlled burns of the oil swirling around the Gulf of Mexico, and a boat captain tasked with saving them says the company has blocked rescue efforts.”

OFFICIALS CHASTISE HAYWARD: Yesterday on ABC’s This Week, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said Hayward yachting off the English coast during the oil crisis is “part of a long line of P.R. gaffes and mistakes.” “[T]o quote Tony Hayward, he has got his life back,” Emanuel said, adding, “I think we can all conclude that Tony Hayward is not going to have a second career in PR consulting.” Other lawmakers were more critical of Hayward, seeming to acknowledge that the situation is beyond PR crises and that Hayward and BP appear to lack any understanding of the Gulf spill’s disastrous consequences. On CBS’s Face the Nation yesterday, Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA) said he is “very disappointed at how out of touch the executives at BP are.” On the same program, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) called on Hayward to step down. “I thought the fact that the chairman of BP had the gall, the arrogance, to go to a yacht race…in England, while all of this was going on here was the height of stupidity. And I believe myself that he should go,” Shelby said.

HAYWARD’S GOP FRIENDS: One of Hayward’s friends on Capitol Hill, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), last week apologized to Hayward for what he perceived as a White House “shakedown” of BP and its executives. Many Republicans and conservative pundits leaped to Barton’s defense. The Republican Study Committee (RSC) concurred with Barton, firing off a statement declaring that the $20 billion dollar escrow account negotiated by BP and the Obama administration for victims of the oil catastrophe in the gulf is a “Chicago-Style Political Shakedown.” Reps. John Fleming (R-LA) and Jim Jordan (R-OH) agreed with the RSC and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said he shares Barton’s concerns. Indeed, New York Times’ columnist Frank Rich noted, “The spill’s sole positive benefit has been to unambiguously expose the hard right, for all its populist pandering to the Tea Partiers, as a stalking horse for its most rapacious corporate patrons.” Other Republicans weren’t as eager to come to Barton’s defense. “I couldn’t disagree with Joe Barton more,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell yesterday on Fox News Sunday. “[I]t somewhat baffles me with respect to why he apologized to BP,” Cao said. “I condemn Mr. Barton’s statement. Mr. Barton’s remarks are out of touch with this tragedy and I feel his comments call into question his judgment and ability to serve in a leadership on the Energy and Commerce Committee,” Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) said. Republicans told Barton last week that he should either apologize for his remarks or face losing his Energy Committee chairmanship. Hours later, Barton backtracked. “I apologize for using the term ‘shakedown’ with regard to yesterday’s actions at the White House this morning, and I retract my apology to BP,” he said in a statement.

MORE BP MALFEASANCE: An employee who worked on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded last April causing the oil spill has told the BBC that he had identified a leak in the rig’s blowout preventer safety device weeks before the explosion and informed BP about it. The worker, Tyrone Benton, said the leak was not fixed in time and, instead, the company relied on a second preventer. “That is unacceptable,” Professor Tad Patzek, petroleum expert at the University of Texas, said. “If you see any evidence of the blowout preventer not functioning properly, you should fix it by whatever means possible.” Additionally, Congressional investigators have found that BP used a well design the investigators labeled as “risky” in more than one-third of its deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico. The Wall Street Journal reports that BP used the cheaper “long-string” design “significantly more often than most peers” — including on the Deepwater Horizon rig. “The decision,” says a letter from Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Bart Stupak (D-MI), “appears to have been made to save time and reduce costs.” Moreover, a newly released internal BP document shows that the oil giant estimated that up to 4.2 million gallons of oil per day could gush from a damaged well in the Gulf. Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) said in a press release that BP’s estimate stands “in sharp contrast to BP’s initial claim that the leak was just 1,000 barrels a day.”

ECONOMY — WHILE TEXAS CAN’T AFFORD TO BUY NEW FAR-RIGHT TEXTBOOKS, RICK PERRY STILL RESISTS FEDERAL AID: For the past year, far-right members of the Texas Board of Education have been overhauling the state’s textbook standards. The changes include “pushing for inclusion of more…Confederate glorification,” renaming the Atlantic slave trade the “Atlantic Triangle Trade,” and raising doubt about climate change. However, the Texas Observer now reports that, with the state facing “a budget shortfall of at least $11 billion in 2011,” the “money isn’t going to be there” for the state to buy the new books. The books with the new science standards “would have cost $400 million, and the Legislature is already expecting a bill of $888 million for textbooks already ordered.” To ensure that students can still be exposed to “proof, supposedly, of evolution’s fallibility,” the Board is trying to secure funding for special “supplements for science classes from fifth grade through high school.” Ironically, though, the legislature’s biggest obstacle to securing the revisionist textbooks is right-wing Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), whose constant compulsion has been to oppose federal funding. At the beginning of June, he refused to let Texas compete for Race to the Top funding for education reform because he falsely claimed the program would weaken the state’s school standards, an allegation refuted by fellow Republican governor Sonny Perdue of Georgia. The Houston Chronicle earlier this week lamented Perry’s stubborn “grandstanding” despite the clear need for education support in the state. Texas now faces a daunting $18 billion shortfall for the next two-year budget cycle, amounting to 20 percent of the total budget, but Perry misguidedly insists he can find enough spending cuts to create balance. He is even blustering about rejecting supplementary Medicaid funding from Congress that would greatly help address the state’s fiscal woes. Last year, he tried to reject the stimulus money that proved key to balancing Texas’ budget, insisting, “We can take care of ourselves,” before the legislature intervened and secured relief.

President Obama will likely discuss “a climate change component” to energy legislation “that caps carbon emissions only from electric utilities” when he meets with a bipartisan group of senators this week. “The idea of a ‘utilities only’ [approach] will also be welcomed,” White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told the Wall Street Journal, emphasizing that “a wide range of ideas will be discussed.”
A New York Times investigation found a “chasm between the oil industry’s assertions about the reliability of its blowout preventers and a more complex reality.” The probe also revealed that the Minerals Management Service “repeatedly declined to act on advice from its own experts” warning of problems with blind shear rams, a part that could have prevented the Deepwater Horizon disaster had it functioned properly.
BP CEO Tony Hayward is planning to travel to Russia to reassure its president, Dmitry Medvedev, that the mega oil company “is not on the brink of collapse after its spill in the Gulf of Mexico.” Russia provides almost one in four of BP’s barrels of oil. For his part, Medvedev will be meeting with Obama in Washington, D.C. later this week.
Obama will issue new guidelines to “government agencies to stop hiring lobbyists for boards and commissions.” His Office of Management and Budget is expected to write the proposed agency guidelines within 90 days.

As Congress works to finish financial reform this week, “the banking industry is mounting an 11th-hour end run” to weaken the bill. “Industry lobbyists — and sympathetic members of Congress — are pushing for provisions to undercut a central pillar of the legislation, known as the Volcker Rule.” Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) is one of the leading lawmakers pushing for exemptions to the Volcker Rule.
“Israel on Sunday formally announced an eased blockade of Gaza that could significantly expand the flow of goods overland into the impoverished coastal Palestinian enclave,” winning the praise of U.S. officials. “We think this is a good move, but obviously implementation is key,” one senior American official told the press.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “left open the possibility of a Republican filibuster of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan” yesterday. Asked about a filibuster on Fox News Sunday, McConnell said, “The option’s open under the Senate procedures.” “We haven’t started the hearings yet, [but] I think some of her views are quite troubling,” he added.
Touting Kagan’s nomination, former President Bill Clinton cited his experience in dealing with her when she served on his White House staff. “She was unfailingly meticulous in trying to determine what the law actually is and what the facts actually were,” he said. “She never let whatever feelings she had get in the way of doing that. I think she can be fair.”
And finally: Sarah Palin’s solution for plugging the oil gusher? “Divine intervention.”