May 14, 2010

In what quickly became a heated interview today on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” Andrea Mitchell questioned BP Managing Director Bob Dudley on the accusations made by President Obama that Halliburton, TransOcean and BP were pointing fingers at each other during the hearings on Capitol Hill. Mitchell pressed Dudley on BP’s plans to repair the loss of livelihood for Gulf area fishermen as well as the massive damages to the environment caused by the oil spill.

An excerpt from the interview is below.

[EXCERPT]

MITCHELL:  Well, let me read you the quotation—you may have been in the car, maybe you didn't hear what the President had to say, maybe you weren't watching TV.  "I do not appreciate what I consider to be a ridiculous spectacle during the Congressional hearings into this matter.  You had executives at BP and TransOcean and Halliburton falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else." 

             I, frankly, don't remember a Rose Garden scene or a scene like that against the industry since JFK and the Steel industry.  This is tough stuff.  Is this the president trying to shift the blame from the political leadership and from the administration or do you think it's warranted? 

             DUDLEY:  I think all the companies involved are learning today what is happening.  There are these multiple investigations by the Marine Board different government agencies and the companies themselves.  It's very early, it's very preliminary information and of course, like any circumstances like this, everyone wants to know --

             MITCHELL:  Mr. Dudley, with all due respect, sir, it's been three weeks.  We're now being told that 1,000 barrels a day went to 5,000 barrels a day, now 70,000 barrels a day.  Do I need to learn this from NPR?  Why can't I learn this from the oil industry?  You were testifying this week -- the company, not you personally perhaps -- but the company was testifying it was 5,000 barrels a day only yesterday.  Now we learn it's 70,000 barrels a day? 

             DUDLEY:  Well, I don't know where the figure of 70,000 comes today, but 5,000 barrels a day --

             MITCHELL:  Well, it comes from Purdue University from experts that were interviewed by NPR, scientists who examined your video and said that the computer examinations of the particles coming out indicate that we're talking about something ten times what the industry and the government is saying.

A full transcript of the interview is below. If used, please credit MSNBC.

[TRANSCRIPT]

           MITCHELL:  And Bob Dudley is BP's managing director, he is overseeing the Gulf Coast community response efforts and joins us now. 

             Thank you very much for joining us, Mr. Dudley.  But let's talk about the fact that the president of the United States just came out in the Rose Garden and in excoriating terms took on the entire industry, not just you, but Halliburton, TransOcean, all three of you for what he said pointing fingers at each other and at the congressional hearing this week. 

             What's your response to the president? 

             DUDLEY:  Well, Andrea, thank you for the chance to talk with you. 

             The president is right.  Representatives were called together to answer questions and they answered them as best they could at this very, very preliminary stages of information. 

             Actually, BP and all of the companies involved now are focused on really one thing -- stopping the leak as well as containing the spill at the surface and keeping the oil off the beaches.  There will be time for the investigations to unfold, and they should unfold and they will be very, very thorough and there will be many of them.  But actually, I agree, the time now is stop the leak and keep the oil off the beaches. 

             And so far, we kept the oil off the beaches.  We continue to progress multiple options of engineering ingenuity at 5,000 feet with the best from the industry and the world involved. 

             MITCHELL:  Well, let me read you the quotation you may have been in the car, maybe you didn't hear what the president had to say, maybe you weren't watching TV.  "I do not appreciate what I consider to be a ridiculous spectacle during the congressional hearings into this matter.  You had executives at BP and TransOcean and Halliburton falling over each other to point the finger of blame at somebody else." 

             I, frankly, don't remember a Rose Garden scene or a scene like that against the industry since JFK and the Steel industry.  This is tough stuff.  Is this the president trying to shift the blame from the political leadership and from the administration or do you think it's warranted? 

             DUDLEY:  I think all the companies involved are learning today what is happening.  There are these multiple investigations by the Marine Board different government agencies and the companies themselves.  It's very early, it's very preliminary information and of course, like any circumstances like this, everyone wants to know --

             MITCHELL:  Mr. Dudley, with all due respect, sir, it's been three weeks.  We're now being told that 1,000 barrels a day went to 5,000 barrels a day, now 70,000 barrels a day.  Do I need to learn this from NPR?  Why can't I learn this from the oil industry?  You were testifying this week -- the company, not you personally perhaps -- but the company was testifying it was 5,000 barrels a day only yesterday.  Now we learn it's 70,000 barrels a day? 

             DUDLEY:  Well, I don't know where the figure of 70,000 comes today, but 5,000 barrels a day --

             MITCHELL:  Well, it comes from Purdue University from experts that were interviewed by NPR, scientists who examined your video and said that the computer examinations of the particles coming out indicate that we're talking about something ten times what the industry and the government is saying. 

             DUDLEY:  Well, there are -- there's multiple science involved with the government's estimates.  There's NOAA involved, we look at satellite photographs.  You can see the plume.  We measure the pressures at different points in the pipe.  This crude has a lot of gas in it and it expands very quickly, a little bit like soda out of a soda can. 

             And I think those estimates of 70,000, with due respect to the experts, don't match the many, many experts and scientists that are involved in this in a unified way.  It's not just a BP estimate, it's the Coast Guard and government agencies as well.  It's somewhat inexact, there's no question about it, but 70,000 feels like a little exaggeration, a little bit of scaremongering.  I don't think that's what we need to do.  We need to focus on stopping this leak and we've got multiple tracks to tracks to do that that. 

             MITCHELL:  What do you think the outside limit is if it's not 70,000? 

             DUDLEY:  Five thousand is a good estimate.  And again, this is a crude oil that has a very high concentrations of gas.  And as soon as it comes out, it expands fairly rapidly and about half evaporates at the surface.  And so, 5,000 barrels a day, while inexact, is the best estimate of the industry experts. 

             MITCHELL:  Speaking of gas, can you give us whatever you know about any anomalous gas kicks on this drill before the accident? 

             DUDLEY:  Well, Andrea, there's been a lot of discussion about it and we as a company have provided 20,000 pages, as much as we can, on the incident itself.  The data coming off the rigs, all the companies will do that.  But this will be a forensic-type investigation, minute by minute of what happened on that rig.  And only through that will we be able to understand the significance of those things. 

             There's two things happening here.  One was an accident on the rig.  You have to remember that even with an accident like that, the blowout preventers should have closed, and that is something we're also going to have to understand very, very carefully.  That's the most significant thing for the oil and gas industry.

             MITCHELL:  What about the -- what about the battery failure on the blowout preventer in this incident?  How significant was that? 

             DUDLEY:  Well, I've heard that as a comment, but the battery was on the blowout preventer.  It was pulled out three weeks later.  Who knows whether that was working or not?  This system has multiple, multiple systems of redundancy.  It was a comprehensive failure of multiple parts.  So the blowout preventer -- and that was not the single cause or event. 

             MITCHELL:  When -- you just said, who knows whether that battery was working or not.  I would have assumed that you, the company, would know by now whether that battery was working. 

             DUDLEY:  Well, this is what the investigation is going to find out.  The investigation will know, we'll pull that apart very forensically to know that.  And I think that's just a piece of data with a very preliminary conclusion attached to it. 

             I would like to stress the engineering effort right now -- I agree with the president, pointing fingers and blame, now is not the time to do that.  Put that aside, we need to stop that leak, contain that spill, keep it off the beaches, which we've been successful at so far. 

             MITCHELL:  Mr. Dudley, let me turn your attention to "The New York Times" investigation today which reports on the licensing of these drills.  "Aside from allowing BP and other companies to drill in the Gulf without getting the required permits from NOAA, the Minerals Agency has also given BP and other drilling companies in the Gulf blanket exemptions from having to provide environmental impact statements...much as BP's drilling plan asserted that there was no chance of an oil spill, the company also claimed in federal documents that its drilling would not have any adverse effect on endangered species."

             Now, a lot of the blame, if this investigation is accurate, is on the agency itself and administration has acknowledged that.  And we're not talking about the Bush years, we're talking about this administration, 2009 permits, permits on this drill. 

             But what about the company's involvement in underestimating the environmental impact in the licensing procedure? 

             DUDLEY:  Well, I think some of those statements appear to be taken out of context a little bit.  The company was certainly prepared to respond to the spill.  This was a largest spill response in history anywhere in the world and we're far ready for a bigger spill than what is happening today, and the deployment of the ships and planes and the people are in vast excess of what's needed for the size of the spill. 

             The United States is a highly regulated industry in the oil and gas industry.  We have always cooperated with the regulators.  We've always submitted and reviewed plans with them.  We'll continue to do that. 

             And there's no question, as a result of this accident, we all have to find out exactly why, what happened, get that knowledge out there, those lessons learned.  It will change the oil and gas industry forever in the world, and we'll have to make decisions about what to do forward. 

             This will be an industry issue.  I'm sure we will all -- everyone wants to get to the bottom of it.  As in all incidents like that, people would like to find out what happened right away.  We need to take this apart very, very carefully. 

             MITCHELL:  I know you do, but let me show you a little bit of a reaction from the people who really want to know what happened and get to the bottom of it right away, the fishermen whose lives are completely destroyed by this accident. 

             Let's watch. 

             (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

             UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is not just a job.  This is a way of life. 

             I just hope and pray that BP takes better care of the people and this town than Exxon take care of the people up in Prince William Sound. 

             MATT O'BRIEN, GULF COAST FISHERMAN:  My main concern is that the fishermen ain't going to survive.  If they don't survive, I'm out of business.

             I'm hopeful that they -- that they can cap it, but my confidence is dropping. 

             (END VIDEO CLIP)

             MITCHELL:  Will you and BP and the others be responsible for all the liability and the damages beyond the $75 million cap? 

             DUDLEY:  So, Andrea, we've said we're not going to hide behind a $75 million cap.  It's an artificial number.  We're going to meet our obligations to clean up the spill. 

             We've opened up claim centers all across the Gulf of Mexico.  And I just returned from Venice, Louisiana and Homer (ph), Louisiana and Biloxi, Mississippi where we met people in the claim centers.  There are people we are reviewing with them.  We want to make sure they don't miss a boat payment, they don't miss a house payment, there's food on the table because the fishing has been shut down.  Those claims are open ended as long as this goes. 

             We have been hiring local -- and it's very important -- we are hiring local fishermen and local people to work on the spill response.  There are several thousand local boats, shrimp boats in many cases, going out with the booms, helping us in this response. 

             For us, this is a -- this is an environmental issue for the people of the Gulf of Mexico.  We're committed to meeting our obligations for fair and quick reaction to the claims processes.  1-800 hotline numbers are down there, we even have interpreters for people who don't speak English and people are getting pay with their checks.  I met them, they're cashing those checks.  And anyone who is not fishing because of this should go and see those claims centers immediately. 

             MITCHELL:  Thank you very much, Bob Dudley.  And I know we'll be talking more about that and making sure that everyone is living up to their commitments.  Thank you for joining us today.

             DUDLEY:  Thank you, Andrea.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,