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BP Rivals Slam Firm Over Gulf Disaster

Oil execs believe that oil spill might have been prevented if BP had followed industry-wide safety practices

Major rivals of BP told angry U.S. lawmakers on June 15 that the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil spill might have been prevented had the embattled energy giant followed industry-wide safety practices. "I believe the independent investigation will show that this tragedy was preventable," Chevron chief executive officer John Watson told the House Energy and Commerce Committee in prepared testimony.

"The Deepwater Horizon accident tragically reinforces that all companies must operate with the same high standards of safety and reliability. It is clear that failure to do so has dire consequences," he said.

Watson and top executives from global oil titans ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, and Shell sat at a long table alongside BP chief Lamar McKay but took pains to distance themselves from the worst environmental catastrophe in U.S. history.

"An expert, impartial and thorough approach to understanding what happened is crucial because this incident represents a dramatic departure from the industry norm in deepwater drilling," said ExxonMobil chief Rex Tillerson.

Tillerson said that disasters like the Gulf spill can be avoided with proper design, redundancy, inspection, maintenance and risk management.

The committee has been looking into actions by BP and other firms tied to the April 20 explosion that sank the offshore drilling platform, killing 11 workers and befouling Gulf waters, dealing a potentially crippling blow to tourism and fishing industries.

Democrats leading the panel blasted the companies over their emergency response plans, charging that the 500-pages of documents shared laughably outdated characteristics that proved the industry was unprepared and uncaring.

"The plans cite identical response capabilities and tout identical ineffective equipment. In some cases, they use the exact same words," said Democratic Representative Ed Markey, who chaired the hearing. "Like BP, three other companies include references to protecting walruses, which have not called the Gulf of Mexico home for three million years," said Markey.

Two other plans are so close to BP's failed blueprint "that they list a phone number for the same long-dead expert," said Markey. "The American people deserve oil safety plans that are ironclad, not boilerplate."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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