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BP's Hayward ignites fresh US anger as he exits

Austrian minister seeks stress tests for oil companies
Austria's environment minister called Wednesday for "stress tests" on oil firm installations in Europe to prevent a repeat of the Gulf of Mexico spill, APA news agency reported. "Citizens want to know when the next catastrophe will happen," Niki Berlakovich was quoted by APA as saying. "A stress test of safety standards adopted by oil companies could restore confidence," the conservative minister said, referring to last week's tests of the ability of major European banks to withstand another economic crash. Berlakovich plans to propose the idea to the Social Democratic party, part of Austria's coalition government, and the European Commission. An explosion at BP's Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20 killed 11 workers and unleashed millions of gallons of crude into the sea and onto the US Gulf coast.
by Staff Writers
London (AFP) July 28, 2010
BP's outgoing chief executive Tony Hayward was the target of fresh US anger Wednesday after claiming he had been "demonised and vilified," threatening efforts to draw a line under the Gulf oil spill.

The comments by Hayward, who resigned Tuesday following his heavily criticised handling of the Gulf of Mexico disaster, drew renewed criticism from Washington as BP struggles to restore its reputation after the spillage.

"I don't think that a lot of people in any country are feeling overly sorry for the former CEO of BP," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

Hayward's departure was a move by the oil giant to rebuild its image in the aftermath of the spill that BP has said will cost more than 32 billion dollars.

He will be succeeded from October by Bob Dudley, who is in charge of BP's Gulf clean-up operations and who has vowed to "change the culture" of how the company tackles safety issues.

BP also said Tuesday it had made a record 16.9-billion-dollar loss in the second quarter, and will sell 30 billion dollars of assets over the next 18 months as it seeks to return to profitability.

"This is a very sad day for me personally," Hayward told a conference call.

"I became the public face and was demonised and vilified. BP cannot move on in the US with me as its leader."

He would not be drawn on whether he felt his treatment had been fair or not, but reportedly responded: "Life isn't fair."

But Gibbs hit back: "What's not fair is what has happened on the Gulf, what is not fair is that the actions of some have caused the greatest environmental disaster that our country has ever seen."

Hayward was also the target of fresh anger in the United States over a separate matter -- his decision to snub a US Senate hearing into BP's alleged role in the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez said the hearing, originally scheduled for Thursday, had been postponed after key witnesses, including Hayward, had refused to attend.

He accused the BP executive of being interested only in his "multi-million-dollar golden parachute."

Under his contract, Hayward will receive one year's salary, worth 1.045 million pounds (1.245 million euros, 1.620 million dollars). He also has a pension pot totalling 11 million pounds.

BP and Hayward have been mauled by Washington since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers and unleashing millions of gallons of crude into the sea and onto the US Gulf coast.

It has taken more than three months to stem the flow. Up to four million barrels (170 million gallons) of crude have escaped.

The catastrophe has destroyed vital tourism, fishing and oil industries in the five US Gulf coast states and left BP facing soaring clean-up and compensation costs.

Hayward will step down on October 1, and will remain a BP board member until November 30, but has meanwhile been nominated as a non-executive director of Russian joint venture TNK-BP.

Dudley will become BP's first US chief executive following the resignation.

"I think sometimes events like this shake you to the core, the foundation, and you have two responses," Dudley said in a TV interview with ABC News, in reference to the oil disaster.

"One is to run away and hide, the other is to respond and really change the culture of the company and make sure all the checks and balances are there, just to make sure this does not happen again."

Dudley added that his top priority was to permanently seal the Gulf well, contain the crude spill and to clean up and restore the area's beaches. The group finally capped the leak on July 15.

BP's share price has plunged about 40 percent since the explosion -- wiping tens of billions of dollars off the group's market value.

Hayward, 53, handed over day-to-day management of the crisis in June to Dudley, as criticism mounted over his gaffe-prone handling of the disaster, suggesting he wanted his "life back" and playing down the impact of the spill.

Although his departure was seen as inevitable, British newspapers said Wednesday it was unlikely to be enough to restore BP's reputation.

"One top kill won't solve problems," said The Guardian.

related report
US keeps BP under pressure 100 days after Gulf disaster
The US government kept up pressure on BP Wednesday, 100 days after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill began, despite the ouster of the energy giant's chief executive, who has been replaced with an American.

The White House showed little sympathy for Tony Hayward, whose departure was announced as BP revealed a record loss. US investigators have meanwhile started a criminal probe into whether close ties between BP and federal regulators contributed to April 20 disaster, the Washington Post reported.

The leaders of the government effort to control the oil spill were to give an update on the scope of the disaster to mark the 100-day anniversary.

But while a cap on the damaged well appears to be holding and collection efforts have drastically reduced the amount of oil visible in the ocean, officials say the scope of the disaster is still unknown.

"When you put somewhere between three million and 5.2 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico I don't think anybody can understate the impact and the gravity of that situation," Thad Allen, the retired admiral in charge of the government spill response, said Tuesday.

US experts say a lot of the oil on the surface has been naturally broken down. The political storm remains for BP, which on Tuesday announced that it would set aside more than 32 billion dollars to pay the costs of the disaster.

Hayward's parting comments that he had been "demonized and vilified" immediately threatened BP's efforts to rebuild its image under new American chief executive Bob Dudley.

"I don't think that a lot of people in any country are feeling overly sorry for the former CEO of BP," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

Hayward was also reported to have said "life isn't fair," prompting Gibbs to respond: "What's not fair is what has happened on the Gulf, what is not fair is that the actions of some have caused the greatest environmental disaster that our country has ever seen."

The oil giant also faces multiple investigations into the April 20 explosion aboard the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig, which killed 11 rig workers and sparked the devastating spill.

A team of investigators, dubbed the "BP Squad," from the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Coast Guard and other federal agencies are leading a new criminal probe into the spill, sources told the Washington Post.

Transocean, which leased the Deepwater Horizon rig to BP, and engineering giant Halliburton, which finished cementing the well less than two days before the rig exploded, are also targeted, the newspaper reported.

Officials are digging through tens of thousands of documents turned over by the firms, interviewing company officials and trying to determine who was responsible for various operations on the rig.

Authorities also are looking into whether company officials made false statements to regulators, obstructed justice or falsified test results for devices such as the rig's failed blowout preventer, the daily wrote.

Several inquiries are already underway, including a Justice Department investigation and state criminal probes in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

For three months, a massive slick has threatened the shores of Louisiana and other southern Gulf Coast states.

A cap stopped the flow on July 15 after between three and 5.2 million barrels (117.6 million and 189 million gallons) had gushed out.

After frantic efforts to skim and burn the crude on the surface -- some 34.7 million gallons of oil-water mix have been recovered -- crews are now having real difficulty finding oil to clean up.

"What we're trying to figure out is where is all the oil at and what can we do about it," said Allen. "What we're seeing are mats, patties, small concentrations, very hard to detect, but they're out there."

Before the cap went on, some 25,000 barrels of oil a day were being skimmed from the thickest part of the slick near the well site.

By the time Tropical Storm Bonnie arrived last week, the take was down to 56 barrels a day.

"We know that a significant amount of the oil has dispersed and been biodegraded by naturally occurring bacteria" said Jane Lubchenco, head of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

While the cap over the well has shut in leaking oil, operations to permanently seal the gusher are expected late this week.

A first effort will attempt to overcome the flow of oil from the top, by pumping heavy fluid then cement into the cap. That could stop the well altogether. But by mid-August crews will use a similar method to "kill" the well from below, via a relief well that intercepts the damaged well.

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Beijing (AFP) July 28, 2010
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