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BP's shortcuts led to spill: US Cong

BP's US chief faces accusations in Congress on Tuesday that it caused the worst oil spill in US history with a calculated strategy to cut costs, hours before President Barack Obama uses a televised address to defend his handling of the disaster.

business Updated: Jun 15, 2010 22:01 IST

BP's US chief faces accusations in Congress on Tuesday that it caused the worst oil spill in US history with a calculated strategy to cut costs, hours before President Barack Obama uses a televised address to defend his handling of the disaster.

A day after the energy giant's shares fell 9 per cent in London and New York, and the company hired investment bankers for undisclosed reasons, US lawmakers will ask Lamar McKay why BP made repeated choices that appeared to favour cost savings over safety before its rig blew up in the Gulf of Mexico.

McKay, the head of BP America, will be surrounded at the congressional hearings by executives from Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Royal Dutch Shell seeking to stave off repercussions for the industry.

McKay's rivals are likely to hang him out to dry in a rush to prove their companies would never take such risks or face such failures as the spill that has poured millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

"This incident represents a dramatic departure from the industry norm in deepwater drilling," Exxon Mobil Chairman and Chief Executive Rex Tillerson said in prepared testimony obtained by Reuters.

A BP spokesman declined to comment before the hearings.

Obama, on his fourth visit to the Gulf Coast since the crisis began, said he hoped for progress on a system to pay damage claims from the oil spill by the time he meets BP executives on Wednesday.

"We have begun preliminary conversations about how do we structure a mechanism so that the legitimate claims that are going to be presented ... are going to be dealt with justly, fairly, promptly," Obama said.

Many on the Gulf Coast are torn between support for the oil industry, an economic mainstay, and anger.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said the coast was in a "war to stop this oil" but also asked Obama to put a quick end to a drilling moratorium.

BP has hired investment banks Blackstone Group LP, Goldman Sachs Group and Credit Suisse Group as advisers, a source familiar with the matter said, without disclosing the purpose of the move.