Gulf oil spill: BP accused of lying to Congress

US congressman says company’s worst-case assessment of leak was 20 times higher than public estimate.

The Guardian, 20 June 2010

BP has been accused by a senior US politician of lying to Congress to reduce its liabilities, after an internal company document showed that the oil giant’s own worst-case assessment of the size of the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico was 20 times its public estimate.

In the document, BP attempts to put a figure on the rate of oil spewing into the ocean. It notes that if the condition of the well bore deteriorates to the extent that crucial parts fall off, the rate could reach 100,000 barrels a day.

When the company handed the document to Congress, it was claiming the leak was only 5,000 barrels a day, and that at very worst the figure could rise to 60,000.

The document was circulated by Ed Markey, the Democratic head of the House sub-committee on energy and the environment. In a statement, he said: “This document raises very troubling questions about what BP knew and when they knew it. It is clear that, from the beginning, BP has not been straightforward with the government or the American people about the true size of this spill.”

The congressman, who has hounded BP on its handling of the crisis, said on Sunday’s Meet the Press on NBC: “First they said it was 1,000 barrels, then they said it was 5,000 barrels, now we are up to 100,000 barrels.”

Tom Sullivan