Washington: BP's humbled CEO told Congress yesterday he was "deeply sorry" for the company's catastrophic oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico as he sought to repair the British oil giant's reputation for its role in America's worst environmental disaster.
A day after agreeing to a $20 billion (Dh73 billion) victims' compensation fund, BP executive Tony Hayward told Congress in prepared testimony that he was "personally devastated" by the April explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that triggered the giant spill — and that he understands the anger that Americans feel towards him and his company.
Before beginning his own testimony, Hayward was buffeted by scathing criticism from lawmakers from both parties.
Democratic Representative Henry Waxman, said that in his committee's review of 30,000 items, there was "not a single email or document that you paid even the slightest attention to the dangers at this well."
Hayward was appearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittee on oversight and investigations, which is looking into the April 20 explosion that killed 11 workers and unleashed the oil geyser on the floor of the Gulf, nearly 1,600 meters below the surface.
Earlier, in prepared testimony obtained by The Associated Press, BP CEO Tony Hayward was to tell Congress he understood the anger that Americans feel.
In the leaked testimony Hayward was going to say that the explosion and sinking of the BP-operated rig "never should have happened, and I am deeply sorry that they did".
Hayward, who has irritated many with comments such as "I'd like my life back," was to strike a far more deferential tone in his planned remarks.
"To be sure, neither I nor the company is perfect," he was to say.
"But we are unwavering in our commitment to fulfil all our responsibilities."
It is unlikely that lawmakers, especially in an election year, will adopt President Barack Obama's more conciliatory tone towards BP.
After accusing the company a day earlier of "recklessness," Obama met Wednesday with BP officials including Hayward and board chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg, after which the president announced BP had agreed to pay a $20 billion fund.
Svanberg also said the company would not pay dividends to shareholders this year, including one scheduled for June 21 totalling about $2.6 billion.
The company said it would pay $3 billion into the escrow fund this summer, $2 billion in the fall, and $1.25 billion per quarter until the $20 billion figure was reached. Obama said BP was "a strong and viable company," and its stock price rebounded.