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Waxman Rips Into Hayward as BP Hearing Opens

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman opened a hearing on the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster Thursday by sharply criticizing BP President Tony Hayward and his subordinates for ignoring the risks on the Deepwater Horizon rig.

The California Democrat said the committee’s review of 30,000 pages of documents from BP, including e-mails from Hayward, found no attention shown to the well dangers.

Waxman said reviews of e-mails and documents from other top corporate executives also found they also were not briefed about the drilling activities.

“BP’s corporate complacency is astonishing” Waxman said.

However, committee ranking member Joe Barton apologized to the company chief for the White House pressure on BP to create a $20 billion compensation fund. The Texas Republican said BP was “subject to a shakedown” by the White House, which forced the company to “participate in a $20 billion slush fund.”

But Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) objected to that characterization, saying the fund is being created to help the regions most vulnerable citizens.

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce investigative subcommittee, said he was concerned that the corporate culture at BP led to its willingness to cut costs and take greater risks.

He also took a swipe at the London-based Hayward for saying at one point that he wanted his life back.

“Mr. Hayward, I’m sure you will get your life back and with a golden parachute back to England,” Stupak said.

A number of the panel’s Republican Members also criticized BP’s lack of attention to safety but added that there needed to be more scrutiny of the Obama administration’s oversight of offshore drilling.

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