Nightly News   |  June 15, 2010

Congress derides big oil's crisis planning

Dismissing the "cookie-cutter" emergency response plans of major oil companies on Tuesday, lawmakers on Capitol Hill demanded a pound of flesh from oil executives who they accused of being as unprepared as BP to cope with a crisis of this scale. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell reports.

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HOLT: giant oil companies , including BP , were up on Capitol Hill today at a congressional hearing, where the four rival companies said they would not make the same mistakes as BP . But not everyone was buying that line. NBC 's Kelly O'Donnell has that part of the story for us. Hello, Kelly .

KELLY O'DONNELL reporting: Good evening, Lester . There is so much mistrust here. BP again promised to pay all costs, but today BP 's president told Congress he could not commit now to that special escrow fund. While the other oil companies say they're sharing everything -- people, equipment, resources -- to try to help, but they don't want to share in any of the blame for this crisis.

Offscreen Voice #3: Raise your right hands.

O'DONNELL: With the giants of the oil business under oath...

Voice #3: The whole truth, and nothing but the truth .

O'DONNELL: ...an entire industry interrogated and scolded by Congress .

Representative ANTHONY WEINER (Democrat, New York): And I wonder what you would say to the American people who open up the newspaper and say, `Well, BP says, dot dot dot ' -- why any of it should be believed?

Representative CHARLES GONZALEZ (Democrat, Texas): I'm a proponent of offshore drilling . Y'all are not making me look good.

O'DONNELL: Frustrated by the scope of BP 's mess, from unstoppable oil to slow reimbursement checks, lawmakers from both parties demanded a pound of flesh.

Representative CLIFF STEARNS (Republican, Florida): I really think you should be resigning as chairman of BP America .

Representative JOSEPH CAO (Republican, Louisiana): During the samurai days, we just give you a knife and ask you to commit hara-kari.

O'DONNELL: Since BP clearly was not equipped for this disaster, lawmakers are alarmed that BP 's competitors have given the government nearly identical emergency response plans.

Representative HENRY WAXMAN (Democrat, California): These are cookie cutter plans. ExxonMobil , Chevron , ConocoPhillips and Shell are as unprepared as BP was.

O'DONNELL: Those plans include steps to protect wildlife that does not even live in the gulf.

Mr. REX TILLERSON (ExxonMobil Corporation Chairman and CEO): I refer...

Representative EDWARD MARKEY (Democrat, Massachusetts): How can walruses be in a response plan for the Gulf of Mexico ?

Mr. TILLERSON: It's unfortunate that walruses were included, and it's an embarrassment that they were included.

O'DONNELL: While acknowledging the need for safety and defending the need for drilling, the oil executives sharply distance themselves from BP .

Mr. JAMES MULVA (ConocoPhillips Chairman and CEO): Most of us sitting here today would have, by our practices and policies, would have drilled the well and handled it differently.

Rep. WAXMAN: You think that they made mistakes? The answer would -- you would give would be yes?

Mr. TILLERSON: We would not have drilled the well the way they did.

Rep. WAXMAN: OK.

O'DONNELL: Well, Congress was skeptical about that, saying with hindsight it's easy for those other companies to say they would have done a better job. Now, apart from today's angry words, this committee has a new report with documents and evidence it says shows that BP knowingly cut corners to save money and time, and that will be the focus of the most anticipated hearing yet, Thursday, when BP 's global chief executive officer Tony Hayward is here

for the very first time. Lester: Kelly O'Donnell on Capitol Hill for us. Thank you. Back

HOLT: