Lamar McKay on This Week with Jake Tapper is practically a textbook case of public-relations crisis management: It wasn't our rig! No one could have known!
TAPPER: Your company, BP, has a spotty safety record, most horrifically in 2005, an explosion at a refinery in Texas that killed 15 workers; other incidents involving leaks have been blamed on cutting corners on financial reasons. How confident are you that this accident had nothing to do with cutting back on safety to save a buck?
MCKAY: Well, the investigations are going to show the cause of this accident, and we want those investigations to be done. My belief that is that that does not have anything to do with it. I believe we've got a failed piece of equipment. We don't know why it failed yet in this contracted rig, and BOP system will figure that out.
Even though you were warned about these rigs ten years ago? Already I'm smelling a rat!
But let me just tell you, our focus, our focus right now is dealing with the source of the oil, dealing with it on the surface, and dealing with it on the beach or the marsh if it occurs.
TAPPER: Your initial filing to the government, to the Mineral Management Service for 2009 before you drilled on this spot made this assessment, quote, "An accidental oil spill could cause impact to the beaches. However, due to the distance to shore, 48 miles, and the response capabilities that would be implemented, no significant adverse impacts are expected. BP Exploration and Production Incorporated has the capability to respond to the maximum extent practicable to a worst-case discharge," which you estimated at 300,000 gallons. It's less than that, it's estimated to be 210,000, and yet BP does not seem to have the capability to respond. How can the public trust BP's assessments of risk and how can the public trust anything you guys say?
MCKAY: Well, I think we are responding very, very aggressively. As you may know, we had a response planned, filed for the drilling of this well that incorporates various capability around the Gulf Coast. That spill response plan was activated as soon as this event occurred. It has been extremely aggressive. It will continue to be extremely aggressive, and I believe the response -- this is, you know, we must understand, this is -- this is a very low likelihood but very high impact response -- sorry, incident -- and the response is matching that incident.
TAPPER: I just have a couple more questions. Just a few months ago, a BP executive protested proposed new safety regulations for oil rigs, writing to the government that quote, "while BP is supportive of companies having a system in place to reduce risks, accidents, injuries and spills, we are not supportive of extensive proscriptive regulations." Will BP continue to fight and lobby against safety regulations?
MCKAY: Well, I would characterize the letter you're talking about slightly differently. That letter was in response to the government's request for input on safety regulations that the MMS was looking at. The rest of the letter actually recommends improvements and specific recommendations around safety regulations should they choose to change them. So we're not fighting anything about safety. Safety is the number one priority. We're going to figure out what happened here, and that is going to help the MMS and help ourselves and help the industry get safer, so we're not fighting anything about safety.
TAPPER: All right, last question, Mr. McKay. You had several fail/safe mechanisms on this rig, and they all failed. Since you don't yet know what caused this accident, will you stop all operations until you know? How can the American people trust that there won't be another explosion at another BP facility?
MCKAY: Well, we're working in conjunction with the government on understanding everything we can understand as quickly as we can. We're not going to do anything that we think is unsafe. We're doing extra tests on various pieces of equipment to make absolutely sure they will work in the condition they're intended to work in.
We won't do any work if we don't think it can be carried out safely and without impact. But we are working very closely with the government in trying to understand this and see if there should be any changes quickly.
Wow. I feel so much better now. Thanks, BP!