Nightly News   |  May 11, 2010

Oil execs trade blame on Gulf spill

Senators seeking answers and accountability from the oil industry got little of either Tuesday as executives from three companies in charge were quick to point fingers during the first Senate hearing investigating the incident. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell reports.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

WILLIAMS: Good evening .

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: It's becoming as hard to find someone to take responsibility for what went wrong on that oil rig in the gulf as it is to cap that leak. The oil slick off the Louisiana coast grew larger today. It continues to move. It has shut down an entire industry across a huge area; it threatens an entire way of life . There is four million gallons of oil in the water now, and now comes the next attempt to stop it. We have two reports tonight beginning with NBC 's Kelly O'Donnell .

KELLY O'DONNELL reporting: It's been 21 days since the oil rig explosion off the Gulf Coast , 11 killed, at least four million gallons of crude oil gushing from the ruptured well. Today workers relived those first minutes at a Coast Guard hearing in Louisiana .

Mr. ALWIN LANDRY (Boat Captain): The alarms go off, it was mayday, mayday, mayday, rig's on fire...

O'DONNELL: While here in Washington executives from three industry giants in charge -- BP, Transocean and Halliburton -- quickly pointed fingers at a Senate hearing.

Mr. STEVEN NEWMAN (Transocean Ltd. CEO): As the lease operator and the well owner, that falls on BP .

Mr. LAMAR McKAY (BP America Inc. President): Transocean , as owner and operator of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig , had responsibility for the safety of drilling operations.

O'DONNELL: Senators had no patience for that.

Senator JOHN BARRASSO (Republican, Wyoming): Shifting this blame does not get us very far.

Senator MARIA CANTWELL (Democrat, Washington): I definitely feel like the case for defense is being built here this morning.

O'DONNELL: Senators wanted answers and accountability and got little of

either. Two big issues drew deep skepticism: What fix will actually work, and who covers the spiraling cost?

Senator MARY LANDRIEU (Democrat, Louisiana): Will BP pay?

Mr. McKAY: We are going to pay all legitimate claims, all legitimate claims...

Sen. LANDRIEU: And define "legitimate" please for us.

Mr. McKAY: Substantiated claims.

O'DONNELL: That includes BP 's pledge to pay for cleanup and reimburse local governments and small businesses harmed by the spill. At times, tempers flared.

Unidentified Man: You're under oath. I just asking you a simple question.

Mr. TIM PROBERT (Halliburton): I do not know, Senator.

O'DONNELL: There was frustrated disbelief that the industry 's elaborate attempted fixes, like the containment dome , had failed to plug the well.

Senator ROBERT MENENDEZ (Democrat, New Jersey): I get the sense you're making things up as you go along.

O'DONNELL: BP says it could not anticipate the scale of this accident, but does know the company will be judged by its response. Kelly O'Donnell , NBC News , the Capitol .