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BP chairman's 'small people' comment angers those along Gulf Coast

BP says it's burning more oil at sea

NEW ORLEANS — BP began burning oil siphoned from a ruptured well on Wednesday as part of its plans to more than triple the amount of crude it can stop from reaching the sea, the company said.

BP said it had burned 52,500 gallons of oil by noon Wednesday using a specialized flare system. Oil and gas siphoned from the well first reached a semisubmersible drilling rig around 1 a.m.

Once the gas reaches the rig, it is mixed with compressed air, shot down a specialized boom and ignited at sea. It's the first time this particular burner has been deployed in the Gulf of Mexico.

BP spokesman Tristan Vanhegan said engineers were still working to optimize the system, which the firm previously said could incinerate anywhere from 210,000 gallons of oil to 420,000 gallons of oil daily once it's fully operational.

Under pressure from the Coast Guard, the firm is attempting to expand its ability to trap leaking oil before it reaches the water. Already, oil and gas are being siphoned from a containment cap sitting over the well head and flowing to a drill ship above.

Adding the burner is part of BP's plan to expand its containment system so it can capture as much as 2.2 million gallons of oil a day by late June, or nearly 90 percent of what a team of government scientists have estimated is the maximum flow from the well.

Only a relief well, which BP says will be completed in August, will completely stop the flow of oil.

Before he gets his 'life back,' visit to Congress

WASHINGTON — BP CEO Tony Hayward is set to tell Congress today he is "personally devastated" by the explosion and oil spill and understands the anger Americans feel toward him and his company. The explosion and sinking of the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon rig "never should have happened — and I am deeply sorry that they did," he said in testimony to be delivered to a House panel. "My sadness has only grown as the disaster continues."

A copy of Hayward's testimony was obtained Wednesday by the Associated Press.

Hayward will appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's oversight and investigations subcommittee, which is investigating the explosion that killed 11 workers. He called it "a complex accident, caused by an unprecedented combination of failures."

Hayward has been a juicy target for lawmakers and other critics — once saying "I'd like my life back." Before that happens, he'll have to survive a hearing that many expect to be brutal.

• "I expect him to be sliced and diced," said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., subcommittee chairman.

• "Put on your asbestos suit and get ready," said Stan Brand, a Washington lawyer who specializes in Congress.

• "He's going to have, if I'm any judge of the committee and the temperament of the members, a very unpleasant afternoon," said Rep. John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat.

Hayward has said he has thick enough skin to handle the verbal assaults. "I'm so far unscathed," he said, referring to the criticism he has received. "No one has actually physically harmed me. They've thrown some words at me. But I'm a Brit, so sticks and stones can hurt your bones but words never break them, or whatever the expression is."

Covering the spill is not always easy

NEW ORLEANS — Journalists covering the spill have been yelled at, kicked off public beaches and islands and threatened with arrest in the nearly three weeks since the government promised improved media access.

Adm. Thad Allen issued a May 31 directive to BP and federal officials ensuring media access to key sites. Those efforts have done little to curtail the obstacles, harassment and intimidation tactics journalists are facing by federal officials and local police, as well as BP employees and contractors.

"We think a lot of the restrictions are way tighter than they need to be," said Michael Oreskes, an AP senior managing editor. "So far, I think the government has done a better job of controlling the flow of information than of controlling the flow of oil in the gulf."

Oreskes wrote to White House press secretary Robert Gibbs on Wednesday demanding that President Barack Obama's administration improve media access, saying:

• On June 5, deputies in Grand Isle, La., threatened an AP photographer with arrest for trespassing after he spoke to BP employees and took pictures of cleanup workers on a public beach.

• On June 6, an AP reporter was in a boat off the Louisiana coast, when a man in another boat identifying himself as a U.S. Fish and Wildlife employee ordered the reporter to leave the area.

• According to a June 10 CNN video, one of the network's news crews was told by a bird rescue worker that he signed a contract with BP stating that he would not talk to the media. The crew was also turned away by BP contractors working at a bird triage area.

• On June 11 and 12, private security guards tried to prevent a crew from New Orleans television station WDSU from walking on a public beach and speaking with cleanup workers.

"I hear comments sometimes that large oil companies are greedy companies or don't care, but that is not the case with BP. We care about the small people."

BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg, to reporters after a joint news conference with President Barack Obama in Washington. Svanberg is Swedish, and his comments may have been an unintentional slight. Either way, people in the Gulf Coast were not amused. "They can say he didn't mean it that way, but that's how they think of us," said Lyn Ridge, a commercial contractor in Louisiana. "They can't keep their foot out of their mouth." By Wednesday evening, Svanberg had apologized.

$15M The White House is asking Congress for $15 million to pay for the presidential commission that will investigate the BP oil spill. President Barack Obama made the request in a letter Wednesday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Obama has insisted that BP pay all costs associated with the spill, but there are a few costs that taxpayers will have to bear and paying for the operations of the commission is one of them. The co-chairs of the commission are former Florida Sen. Bob Graham and former Environmental Protection Agency head William K. Reilly.

BP chairman's 'small people' comment angers those along Gulf Coast 06/16/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 16, 2010 10:32pm]
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