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Senate Grills Oil Executives on Spills

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 Lamar McKay (R), president and chairman of BP America Inc, and David Nagel (L), Executive Vice President of BP America,wait to testify as people protest behind them during a Senate hearing.

In all-day Senate inquiries on Tuesday, Congress chastised the companies responsible for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill on their lack of risk preparation, blowout prevention measures and crisis management.

Senator Jeff Bingaman, chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee said, "If this is like other catastrophic failures of technological systems in modern history, whether it was the sinking of the Titanic, Three Mile Island, or the loss of the Challenger, we will likely discover that there was a cascade of failures and technical and human and regulatory errors."

According to the Associated Press, Executives of BP, Halliburton and Transocean tried to shift the blame for the rig explosion that set off the underwater rupture, alternatively blaming faulty parts, the drilling plans and inappropriate use of materials. Senators sought assurances from BP that the company will pay what could amount to billions of dollars in economic and environmental damages.

At the hearing, BP said that it would cover all “legitimate” damage claims, and not try to limit itself to an existing federal limit of $75 million on such damages.

"Let me be really clear. Liability, blame, fault - put it over here," said Lamar McKay, chairman of BP America, pointing to the witness table where he and the executives from Transocean and Halliburton sat. "Our obligation is to deal with the spill, clean it up and make sure the impacts of that spill are compensated, and we're going to do that."

Also, a smaller containment box has reached the Gulf seafloor and will be positioned over the gusher by Thursday. Workers will pump warm water into the system, hoping to prevent the ice buildup that occurred with the first huge 100-ton box designed to siphon oil to a ship.

For more WQXR coverage on this story, click here.