Cao Grills BP President on Spill

May 27, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. – While BP tries to plug that massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, company President Lamar McKay told a U.S. House committee today his company is waiting on studies before coming up with a long-term plan to help Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states recover from the disaster.

McKay’s statement came in response to pointed questioning from Congressman Anh “Joseph” Cao (LA-02) in a hearing of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Click here to watch the testimony.

Cao asked McKay: “What kind of plans do you have in the long term to address the issue of economic development, to address the issue of the seafood and fishing industry to the states along the Gulf Coast?”

McKay replied: “Several studies, one major one is a natural resources damage assessment study that’s going on now in which the federal lead trustee is NOAA. They’re doing that study which baselines, is baselining things and then we’ll evaluate the damage to natural resources, the damage to fisheries, the damage to any nautral resources, their restoration and their compensation based on that.”

Cao pressed McKay on the question of how to repair psychological damage from the spill. He asked: “How do you address in the long term the issue of the psychological impact on the area, the fact that people might not be eating seafood from the Gulf Coast because they fear that they’re contaminated? How do you bring back tourism to Florida, to Alabama, to Louisiana. Do you have a long-term plan to address those issues?”

McKay replied: “We are working with the states. Interms of tourism as an example, we’ve given–this was announced a couple of days ago–we’ve given about 70-million dollars across the Gulf Coast to do advertising and help get the messages the states want to give out as regard tourism. As far as your other question on longer-term effect, I don’t have a specific answer to that but I do want to let you know that our intent is to stand behind what we’re saying, and it doesn’t end when the cleanup ends.”

Cao grilled the BP executive on the Vessels of Opportunity program for private boaters to help contain and clean up the spill. The Congressman said BP officials had informed him that 16,000 boats had been approved, but only 680 are active. He asked: “Can you explain to me what process do you use to determine which boats become active and which boats are lingering and waiting?”

McKay responded: “There are many more boats than are needed right now for the response for those types of vessels and I’m not sure I know the exact details but the area contingency plans, the parish plans, for instance, help us understand how implementation should occur with the unified command structure in terms of deploying resources, so the boats that are actually at work are the ones that are needed to deploy boom or to protect certain shorelines based on the unified command resource deployment priorities.”

Cao questioned McKay about how lost-wage claims from fishermen and others whose livelihood has suffered from the spill, and how the company determines which claims are “legitimate.” McKay replied that BP goes by standards set forth in the Oil Polllution Act. Cao followed up with another question: “And how does this Act affect, for example, fishermen who are trying to file a claim, small businesses who are trying to file a claim–and I know that some of the documents you asked for–for example, tax returns, a lot of these fishermen may not file tax returns, so how can they file a legitimate claim when they cannot submit some of the documents that you require?

McKay responded: “They just need some substantiation. Generally, it starts with income–tax returns–but it could be receipts that can be provided from past catches and things like that.”

Cao has vowed to hold BP accountable for the spill and to see to it that the company plugs the leak, cleans up the oil, and pays for economic damages. Cao is assuring constituents he is committed and determined to bring immediate resources to help families on the front lines of the spill, protect Louisiana’s wetlands and develop a comprehensive plan to address the long-term impacts of the disaster.

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