Oil Rig Explosion Hearings Begin

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

BP told senators Tuesday that the spill was caused by the failure of a safety device made by another firm. But that company said BP was in charge, and that a third company that poured concrete didn't do it right. The third company says it was just following BP's plan.

The CEO of the company that owned the oil drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico says the accident was caused by a failure of its cementing, casing or perhaps both.

Transocean Ltd. CEO Steven Newman said at a Senate hearing Tuesday that the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig was unusual because it happened after construction of the well was essentially complete.

He said that the explosion that killed 11 workers could not have happened unless the cement, well casing, or both of those elements, failed. The rig sank and has been gushing oil into the Gulf.

Newman dismissed suggestions that a blowout preventer owned by Transocean may have been a cause.

The chairman of a key Senate committee says failures that led to the massive Gulf oil spill need to be closely examined so new safety measures can be imposed.

New Mexico Democrat Jeff Bingaman opened the first congressional hearings into the accident. Scheduled to testify are executives of companies involved, including BP, which operated the drilling rig.

Bingaman said it's not enough "to label this catastrophic failure an unpredictable and unforeseeable occurrence."

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the panel's ranking Republican, said it is essential to determine if the rig operators followed regulations and the law. But she said the accident should not interfere in continued offshore oil development.

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