BP CEO Will Appear Before Lawmakers Next Week

Posted June 8, 2010 at 2:25pm

Updated: June 8, 6:02 p.m.

Amid growing frustration at BP’s inability to squelch a massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, the company’s top executive is slated to testify on Capitol Hill for the first time next week.

Members of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will have the opportunity to grill BP CEO Tony Hayward on June 17 during a hearing titled “The Role of BP in the Deepwater Horizon Explosion and Oil Spill.” The panel, chaired by Rep. Bart Stupak, has launched a probe into the causes of the spill and BP’s response.

Stupak wants answers from Hayward about why the company proceeded with drilling on the rig even though rig workers — including some who died in the explosion before the spill — had raised red flags about safety in the days leading to the incident, the Michigan Democrat said Tuesday afternoon on MSNBC.

Stupak and Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) asked Hayward in a letter Tuesday to bring along a BP official with the technical expertise to answer questions about “rig operations, well design, and safety measures.”

Until now, BP America Chairman Lamar McKay has been the highest-ranking company executive to appear before Congress since the deadly April 20 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that unleashed the ongoing leak.

News that Hayward would testify came on the heels of a Monday field hearing that the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee held in Chalmette, La., to examine the spill’s effect on the region.

Subcommittee member Peter Welch (Vt.) joined at least 31 other House Democrats on Tuesday in authoring a letter to Hayward. It urged BP to suspend dividend payments to shareholders, as well as all advertising campaigns, until the company had “done the hard work of capping the well, cleaning up the Gulf Coast and making whole those whose very livelihoods are threatened by this catastrophe.”

“Not a moment before then should you return to business as usual,” the members wrote on the same day that the company announced it would move forward with a $10 billion payout to shareholders. BP also recently launched a $50 billion ad campaign, which included full-page ads in several major newspapers, promising to remedy the short- and long-term effects of the spill.