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Lawmakers put BP CEO in cross-hairs

UPDATED AT 5:28 p.m. ET: Msnbc.com's Alex Johnson live blogged BP CEO Tony Hayward's testimony before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations:

UPDATE 5:28 p.m. ET: Chairman Bart Stupak gavels the hearing over, but not without noting that the subcommittee's members are "frustrated" by the "evasiveness" of Hayward's answers.

UPDATE 5:27 p.m. ET: DeGette seems deeply frustrated by Hayward's non-answers.

She presses Hayward about whether the $20 billion escrow fund will help reimburse Gulf Coast residents and rig workers for long-term health care effects. His response is that it's up to the Ken Feinberg, the independent adjudicator appointed to oversee the fund.

When DeGette asks him for his own opinion, he says it's up to Feinberg.

UPDATE 5:23 p.m. ET: Asked by Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., about cement being pumped on the Deepwater Horizon, Hayward for the first time consults with the technical expert he brought along to the hearing. He says the expert isn't a cement expert.

UPDATE 5:13 p.m. ET: ... 66 times now, when asked by Rep. Steve Scalise, D-La., about the cement on the Deepwater Horizon.

UPDATE 5:12 p.m. ET: Challenged by Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., to point to even one bad decision made by BP, Hayward says, "I'm not able to draw that conclusion at this time."

He says that at each step of the incident, the people on the Deepwater Horizon made decisions "that they thought were right, and we need to find out why."

Welch says Hayward has said some variation of "I don't know" 65 times so far today, which he says does not inspire confidence in BP.

UPDATE 5:05 p.m. ET: Throughout the day, Hayward has shown remarkable equanimity, betraying not a flicker of anger, impatience or frustration with more than seven hours of harsh questioning.

UPDATE 5:05 p.m. ET: Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, returns to a thread he raised early this morning: What does BP say to the families of the men who died on the Deepwater Horizon?

Hayward answers: "Based on what I know, this was a tragic accident" involving "multiple" systems failures.

Then he adds: "I don't believe now is the time to apportion blame. Now is the time find out what happened."

UPDATE 5 p.m. ET: Markey concludes by saying, regarding the BP Atlantic, "The only thing worse than one BP rig at the bottom of the ocean in the Gulf of Mexico would be two BP rigs at the bottom of the ocean."

He then asks for an extra 30 seconds to ask one more question. Stupak agrees but says, "You've never asked a 30-second question before."

UPDATE 4:58 p.m. ET: Hayward says BP's ombudsman, former federal Judge Stanley Sporkin, is reviewing allegations that a whistleblower in the BP Atlantic case was illegally fired.

UPDATE 4:56 p.m. ET: Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., is asking Hayward about the safety record of the BP Atlantic, another BP rig in the Gulf. Here's the Associated Press story from last month that revealed that the rig operated with inaccurate engineering documents, which one official warned could "lead to catastrophic operator error."

UPDATE 4:50 p.m. ET: Burgess refers to news reports of a "skirmish" on the Deepwater Horizon shortly before the blowout. Before he can make a point about it, Hayward interjects that he believes that account has been contradicted by sworn testimony before the Marine Board of Investigation, the joint inquiry by the Coast Guard and the Minerals Management Service.

UPDATE: 4:45 p.m ET: Stupak is pressing Hayward on the blowout preventer, asking how it can be the "ultimate fail-safe" when he has a report quoting BP's own engineers as documenting more than 260 problems with it.

Hayward says he hasn't seen the document and sticks to the point that blowout preventers are "designed to be the fail-safe."

Stupak then says BP itself asked for changes in the blowout preventer and asks how BP could rely on it as the "ultimate fail-safe" when it needs to be modified.

Hayward gives the same answer, prompting Stupak to complain, "You can't have it both ways."

"The ultimate fail-safe really wasn't the ultimate fail-safe," he says.

"What is clear is that the ultimate fail-safe failed to operate in this case," Hayward concedes.

UPDATE 4:38 p.m. ET: Stupak is now asking about the blowout preventer, which Hayward identified as the key to the puzzle just a few minutes ago. He tells Stupak the preventer should have been the "ultimate fail-safe."

UPDATE 4:36 p.m. ET: Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, is pursuing an interesting point: He says he and his staff know of no oil well that has ever produced 50,000 barrels of oil a day. How then, can the Deepwater Horizon well be gushing that much each day, as some estimates have concluded?

They agree that it's the pressure the pipeline is under that's forcing the oil out faster than it could be pumped in good condition.

UPDATE 4:30 p.m. ET: Waxman makes a breakthrough: Asking Hayward repeatedly whether there was evidence that some of BP's decisions put money first, Hayward finally cracks just a bit and says "it appears" that some choices "may have been to do with money, but it's not clear."

Hayward promises to cooperate with all investigations "as we have cooperated, Mr. Chairman, which your committee."

Waxman replies: "I question how cooperative you have been with this committee."

Asked for a timeline, Hayward says BP wants "access to all the information" before drawing any conclusions. He says the blowout preventer is a key piece, but it "remains on the seabed."

UPDATE 4:26 p.m. ET: Waxman says he's puzzled by how Hayward can seem so "removed" from the events. "You were oblivious and so were other senior officials."

Asked whether there was a failure of management, Hayward says its role is to make sure the right procedures and priorities are in place. "I believe that the right people were making those decisions."

UPDATE 4:23 p.m. ET: The formally scheduled questioning has ended. Stupak says there will be only a handful of follow-ups. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., is up first.

UPDATE 4:20 p.m. ET: As Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., asks Hayward whether BP was prepared for the blowout, most of the subcommittee has abandoned the hearing. Only a few members remain in their seats.

UPDATE 4:14 p.m. ET: Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-La. — whose coastal 3rd District is one of those most affected by the BP spill — is questioning Hayward very politely right now but is making very emotional points by asking him about widows of some of the men killed on the Deepwater Horizon.

UPDATE 4:07 p.m. ET: The subcommittee members manage to keep straight faces as Hayward tells Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash.: "I don't want to be evasive."

UPDATE 4:03 p.m. ET: Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, has issued a written statement in response to the controversy over his remarks during BP CEO Tony Hayward's testimony this morning. The written statement goes much further than the apology he made in the hearing the afternoon, when he said he was sorry if anyone "misconstrued" him:

I apologize for using the term "shakedown" with regard to yesterday's actions at the White House in my opening statement this morning, and I retract my apology to BP. As I told my colleagues yesterday and said again this morning, BP should bear the full financial responsibility for the accident on their lease in the Gulf of Mexico. BP should fully compensate those families and businesses that have been hurt by this accident. BP and the federal government need to stop the leak, clean up the damage, and take whatever steps necessary to prevent a similar accident in the future.

I regret the impact that my statement this morning implied that BP should not pay for the consequences of their decisions and actions in this incident.

UPDATE 3:55 p.m. ET: Kevin Costner has come over from the hearing he was at on the Senate side earlier to watch Hayward deflect questions, NBC's Shawna Thomas says.

UPDATE 3:53 p.m. ET: Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., returns to the $20 billion escrow fund, the first time it has been mentioned in several hours as subcommittee members have focused on criticizing Hayward's lack of response. She calls it "a good first step" but says, "You're going to have to fully compensate everyone who has been affected by this disaster."

Hayward reassures Capps that BP will fully fund its separate $500 million commitment to the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative for a research program to study the impact of the oil spill.

UPDATE 3:41 p.m. ET: Engel wants assurances from Hayward that none of the "hundreds" of BP's other wells in the Gulf won't experience the same problems as the Deepwater Horizon.

Hayward says: "The other wells I'm referring to have all been drilled and are secure."

Engel asks him to be clearer: Could the same thing happen to any of the other wells? Hayward gives the same answer word for word.

Engel concludes: "I, like the rest of America, am thoroughly disgusted. ... I resent it."

UPDATE 3:39 p.m. ET: Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., tells Hayward he is "stonewalling" and declares: "It's an insult to this committee."

UPDATE 3:34 p.m. ET: Hayward goes even further in signaling his insulation from the Deepwater Horizon. In response to a question from Stearns, Hayward answers: "I had no prior knowledge of this well."

UPDATE 3:33 p.m. ET: A Republican gets off the toughest zinger of the day. Noting that Hayward over and over responds by saying he can't respond because he's not an engineer or because investigations aren't complete, Rep. Cliff Stearns of Florida asks:

"Is today Thursday?"

Hayward, stone-faced, replies: "Today is Thursday."

UPDATE 3:31 p.m. ET: Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., gets Hayward on the record about BP's checkered regulatory record of the last few years. He asks Hayward to confirm a list of incidents and penalties the company has experienced:

• A 2005 accident that killed 15 people and injured 170 at BP's Texas City, Texas, refinery.

"That is correct," Hayward replies.

• A 2006 spill of up to 267,000 gallons of oil on Alaska's North Slope.

"That is correct," Hayward replies.

• Settlements in 2007 of three criminal investigations resulting in $370 million in fines.

"That is correct," Hayward replies.

• A finding of 700 safety violations at the Texas City refinery, with a fine of $87.4 million.

"That is correct," Hayward replies.

• A fine of $3 million for "willful" safety violations at BP's Toledo, Ohio, facility.

"That is correct," Hayward replies after a long pause.

UPDATE 3:20 p.m. ET: Now the other shoe drops. After a day of partisan charges and dueling statements by party leaders, Barton finishes his questioning by apologizing for his earlier apology to BP:

"I want the record to be absolutely clear that I think BP is responsible for this accident, should be held responsible and should do everything in every way to make good on the consequences that have resulted from this accident. If anything I've said this morning has been misconstrued to that effect, I want to apologize."

UPDATE 3:15 p.m. ET: Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, the hottest figure at the hearing today, is back up. This time, he's keeping a low profile and asking questions about details of the blown-out well.

UPDATE 3:14 p.m. ET: What's especially galling the subcommittee members is that Hayward is saying that, nearly two months after the accident, he still doesn't know who made critical decisions on drilling by the Deepwater Horizon that have been widely criticized as shortcuts.

Hayward told Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Penn., said he was "not involved or aware of" any of the decisions and indicated that he would be "surprised" if either BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles or exploration chief Andy Inglis was aware.

Among the decisions that have come under harsh criticism was one to skip a test known as a "cement bond log" to determine whether the cement job intended to seal the well was holding.

Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., told Hayward that one oil drilling expert consulted by the committee described that decision as "horrendously negligent."

Hayward again declined to say whether he considered the decision an error, saying, "I'm not able to answer yes or no until our investigation is complete."

UPDATE 3:02 p.m. ET: Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., puts the subcommittee's frustration in very stark terms, telling Hayward:

"It seems we're getting statements memorized by you and authorized by your legal counsel. I don't think BP understands how angry America and the world is. It's rare when you see Democrats and Republicans on this panel agreeing with each other — with a few exceptions," which appeared to be a reference to Rep. Joe Barton's apology to Hayward.

"BP has not been honest with the American people," Ross continues. "It has not been honest with the government."

Ross says BP appears to be trying to hide something, but "it's hard to hide 2½ million gallons of oil a day pouring into the Gulf."

Hayward does not reply.

UPDATE 2:57 p.m. ET: We're not the only outlet live blogging the hearing:

New York Times

Washington Post

Wall Street Journal

Huffington Post

CBS News


The Guardian

UPDATE 2:52 p.m. ET: After nearly five hours of the hearing, Hayward is finally asked about efforts to stop the current gusher of oil. He tells Doyle the relief well being drilled, with an August completion date, is the only way "to kill this well."

UPDATE 2:49 p.m. ET: Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., asks who made the decision to use a single tube of metal in the well. Hayward says he doesn't know.

Doyle calls that "astounding":

"If a mistake or misjudgment is made, workers on the rig can get killed and an environmental catastrophe could be unleashed. The senior leadership of a company should be aware," he says. "But you're not able to give us much information on anything at this hearing."

Doyle adds to a scattering of laughter: "I'm sitting here thinking I could be the CEO of an oil company."

UPDATE 2:45 p.m. ET: Hayward says he can't even answer whether the construction was a mistake because investigations aren't complete. "If there is any evidence that people put costs ahead of safety, then I will take action," Hayward says for at least the fourth time today.

UPDATE 2:43 p.m. ET: Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., is one of the few members to get into the scientific nitty-gritty. She's asking Hayward about the cement used in the Deepwater Horizon and wants to know whether a liner and a tieback would have been safer. Hayward is sticking to his tactic of saying that while BP engineers may have raised such issues before the spill, he wasn't in the decision-making loop.

DeGette also asks about the April memo in which a BP engineer questioned the safety of the well. Hayward says he didn't know about the memo at the time.

In fact, "I was not aware of any of these documents," he says.

UPDATE 2:35 p.m. ET: Hayward's refusal to use the word "plume" isn't just a semantic quibble. A plume — NOAA says it has confirmed there is one in the Gulf — means there's significant oil beneath the surface — in this case, as far as 3,300 feet down.

By insisting on a term like "low concentrations" of unconfirmed "attribution," Hayward is signaling BP's contention that all of the oil is on the surface.

UPDATE 2:25 p.m. ET: Hayward refuses to concede that there are "plumes" of oil underneath the Gulf surface, a word that BP has consistently debated.

Asked by Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., whether there are, in fact, plumes of oil suspended in the ocean, Hayward acknowledges that "there are concentrations of oil of about 0.5 parts per million. Some of it is related to this spill. Some of it has been attributed to other types of oil."

Pressed again about whether there are "plumes," Hayward says, "I am not an oceanographic scientist.”

Markey, exasperated, replies: "The equivocation in your answer is not reassuring."

UPDATE 2:15 p.m. ET: Doesn't work. Hayward's first response to Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., is "I wasn't involved in decision making on that day."

UPDATE 2:13 p.m. ET: Stupak tells Hayward many members told him during the recess that they're "frustrated" by his "lack of candor." As a result, he's going to try to squeeze an unusual second round of questions from the panel.

"You have not yet provided us with direct answers or taken responsibility," Stupak says. "I hope you will be more forthcoming and less evasive for the rest of this hearing."

UPDATE 2:10 p.m. ET: The hearing's resumed.

UPDATE 2:01 p.m. ET: The BP hearing isn't the only oil spill session taking place on the Hill. Look! It's Kevin Costner!

UPDATE 2 p.m. ET: Most members of the panel seem to agree that BP screwed up. But the questions being asked highlight a partisan fault line in Congress over who else is to blame, msnbc.com's John Schoen writes.

UPDATE 1:41 p.m. ET: Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, set off a mini-storm with his apology to BP for its dealings with the Obama administration.

Federal Election Commission records show that during the current 2009-10 campaign cycle, the oil and gas industry has been the second-biggest contributor to Barton, at $100,470, behind only the electric utility industry ($162,800).

FEC records show that BP has given Barton an average of $1,350 a year since 1990.

UPDATE 1:18 p.m. ET: Here's the full video of the apology to BP by Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas:

UPDATE 12:55 p.m. ET: Another recess for floor votes, this one projected to last till 2 p.m. ET.

UPDATE 12:54 p.m. ET: Hayward is declining to second-guess the decisions made by BP employees, saying he will not reach any conclusions before the various investigations of the accident are completed. His responses to Dingell are a litany of "I can't recalls" and "I wasn't involveds" and "that was a decision I was not party tos."

As Rep. John Sullivan, R-Okla., recited lowlights from BP's safety record — noting that it had 760 safety violations over a five-year period compared to eight for Sunoco and ConocoPhillips, two for Citgo and one for Exxon Mobil — Hayward repeated that he is focused on finding out what happened and wasn't involved in decision-making.

UPDATE 12:50 p.m. ET: Msnbc.com senior business writer John Schoen asks whether BP can afford the escrow fund in this post.

UPDATE 12:48 p.m. ET: Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., is up. Then there will be another recess for floor votes, Stupak says.

UPDATE 12:41 p.m. ET: Waxman has now quoted Hayward's "laser-like focus" on safety four times and accuses him of stonewalling. "Are you refusing to cooperate with other committees, too?" he asks. ”I'm amazed at this testimony, Mr. Hayward. You're kicking the can down the road. ... I find that irresponsible."

"I’m not stonewalling. I simply was not involved in the decision-making process," Hayward says.

UPDATE 12:40 p.m. ET: Attorney General Eric Holder has responded to accusations by Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, of a "shakedown" in the BP escrow deal and the meeting at the White House. He says at a news conference:

The criminal investigations and the civil investigations, those are walled off. The Justice Department, in the person of Tom Perelli, the associate attorney general, was very intimately involved in working out the deal with BP.

Let me be clear: I don't apologize for the Justice Department's role in this matter. And I don't apologize for the way in which this administration has approached this question. We have dealt with this issue I think in a tough way, to ensure that Americans who did no wrong will be compensated, that we do all that we can to protect our environment and that not a penny comes from American taxpayers to do both of those things. So I think what we have done has been entirely appropriate.

UPDATE 12:38 p.m. ET: Waxman and Hayward are talking over each other.

Waxman shows a Powerpoint slide from a presentation by a BP engineer warning against using cement procedures like the one that was used on the Deepwater Horizon. "Apparently, BP overruled the warnings of its own engineers and chose the more dangerous options," he says

Hayward says simply that he wasn't involved in that decision.

"It's clear to me that you don't want to answer our questions," Waxman replies.

UPDATE 12:33 p.m. ET: Here come fireworks. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., a tenacious watchdog, is up. He's already demanded of Hayward, who is still sticking to his talking points, "Will you answer yes or no?"

UPDATE 12:32 p.m. ET: The GOP is backfilling on Rep. Joe Barton's complaint that the $20 billion escrow fund is a "shakedown" of BP.

Republican sources with the Energy and Commerce Committee tell NBC News' Kelly O'Donnell that Barton's complaint is specifically with Attorney General Eric Holder, who was in the meeting where the demand for BP's money was made and also running a criminal investigation of the company.

The sources say Barton is fully behind the investigation and that he has been a "harsh critic" of BP over three previous incidents, including a deadly accident in Texas.

UPDATE 12:28 p.m. ET: Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, returns to the propriety of the $20 billion escrow fund: "I have serious questions about the setup of this fund."

"We need Mr. Salazar here and whoever's in charge of MMS," Burgess says, referring to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and the Minerals Management Service, which oversees the oil industry. He wants to know why MMS approved BP's safety plans.

"Shame on you, Mr. Hayward for submitting [the drilling plan], but shame on us for accepting it," he says.

UPDATE 12:25 p.m. ET: Hayward dodges Stupak's question about whether he expects to keep his job, saying he's focused on managing the leak.

UPDATE 12:23 p.m. ET: Asked whether BP managed risk in the Deepwater Horizon, Hayward says "safe and reliable operations are our Number 1 priority."

Although he is being regularly interrupted by Stupak, so far, he is reciting the talking points in his opening statement almost verbatim.

UPDATE 12:18 p.m. ET: The hearing has resumed with questioning of Tony Hayward by Chairman Bart Stupak.

UPDATE 12:14 p.m. ET: And here's a transcript of Hayward's remarks as delivered:

Chairman Waxman, Chairman Stupak, Ranking Member Barton, Ranking Member Burgess, members of the Committee. I am Tony Hayward, Chief Executive of BP plc.

The explosion and fire aboard the Deepwater Horizon and the resulting oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico never should have happened — and I am deeply sorry that they did.

When I learned that eleven men had lost their lives, I was personally devastated. Three weeks ago, I attended a memorial service for those men, and it was a shattering moment. I want to offer my sincere condolences to their friends and families — I can only begin to imagine their sorrow.

I understand how serious this situation is. It is a tragedy. I want to speak directly to the people who live and work in the Gulf region: I know that this incident has had a profound impact on your lives and has caused turmoil, and I deeply regret that.

I also deeply regret the impact the spill has had on the environment, the wild life and the ecosystem of the Gulf.

I want to acknowledge the questions that you and the public are rightly asking. How could this happen? How damaging is the spill to the environment? Why is it taking so long to stop the flow of oil and gas into the Gulf?

We don't yet have answers to all these important questions. But I hear and understand the concerns, frustrations — and anger — being voiced across the country. I know that these sentiments will continue until the leak is stopped, and until we prove through our actions that we will do the right thing.

Yesterday we met with the President of the United States and his senior advisors. We discussed how BP could be more constructive in the government's desire to bring more comfort and assurance to the people of the Gulf Coast beyond the activity we have already done We agreed in that meeting to create a $20 billion dollar claims fund to compensate the affected parties and pay for the costs to federal state and local governments of the clean up and environmental mitigation. We have said all along that we would pay these costs — and now the American people can be confident that our word is good.

I have been to the Gulf Coast. I have met with fisherman, business owners and families. I understand what they are going through and I promised them, as I am promising you, that we will make this right. After yesterday's announcement, I hope they feel we are on the right track.

I am here today because I have a responsibility to the American people to do my best to explain what BP has done, is doing, and will do in the future to respond to this terrible incident.

First, we are doing everything we can to secure the well and — in the meantime — contain the flow of oil. We are currently drilling two relief wells. We believe they represent the ultimate solution. We expect this to be completed in August. Simultaneously, we have been working on parallel strategies to minimize or stop the flow of oil. While not all of them have met with success, it appears that our latest containment effort is now containing about 20,000 barrels a day. By the end of June, we expect to have equipment in place to handle between 40 and 50,000 and by mid July, 60 to 80,000 barrels a day.

Second, I have been clear that we will pay all necessary cleanup costs. We have mounted what the Coast Guard has recognized as the largest spill response in history. We have been working hard, under the leadership of the Unified Command, to stop the oil from coming ashore. And while we are grateful that these efforts are reducing the impact of the spill, any oil on shore is deeply distressing. We will be vigilant in our cleanup.

Third, as I have made clear from the beginning, we will pay all legitimate claims for losses and damages caused by the spill. Those are not just words. We have already paid out more than $95 million, and we have announced an independent claims facility, headed by Ken Feinberg, to ensure the process is as fair, transparent, and rapid as possible.

Fourth, we need to know what went wrong so that we as a company and we as an industry can do better. That is why, less than 24 hours after the accident, I commissioned a non-privileged investigation . I did it because I want to know what happened, and I want to share the results. Right now, it is simply too early to say what caused the incident. There is still extensive work to do. A full answer must await the outcome of multiple investigations, including by the Marine Board.

To sum up: I understand the seriousness of the situation and the concerns, frustrations, and fears that have been and will continue to be voiced. I know that only actions and results, and not mere words, ultimately can give you the confidence you seek.

I give my pledge as leader of BP that we will not rest until we make this right We are a strong company, and no resource will be spared. We and the entire industry will learn from this terrible event and emerge from it stronger, smarter and safer.

UPDATE 12:11 p.m. ET: The recess is running longer than projected, which isn't unusual. While we're waiting for the hearing to resume, here's the full visdeo of BP CEO Tony Hayward's opening statement:

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UPDATE 12:08 p.m. ET: House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, repudiates Rep. Joe Barton's characterization of BP's $20 billion escrow account as a "shakedown."

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel tells NBC News: "Mr. Barton said in his remarks that he does not speak for all Republicans. And, obviously, Boehner does not agree with him. Since Day One, Boehner has said that BP is entirely responsible for the cost of the disaster in the Gulf."

NBC's Luke Russert notes, however, that another member of thr GOP leadership, Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, used the same language yesterday:
"BP's reported willingness to go along with the White House's new fund suggests that the Obama Administration is hard at work exerting its brand of Chicago-style shakedown politics."

UPDATE 12:04 p.m. ET: Here's the full video of the protest by Diane Wilson of Code Pink:

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UPDATE 12 p.m. ET: White House press secretary Robert Gibbs is already out with a response to the apology Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, gave Hayward for the "shakedown" in which BP set up a $20 billion escrow fund to cover claims from the oil spill:

What is shameful is that Joe Barton seems to have more concern for big corporations that caused this disaster than the fishermen, small business owners and communities whose lives have been devastated by the destruction. Congressman Barton may think that a fund to compensate these Americans is a "tragedy," but most Americans know that the real tragedy is what the men and women of the Gulf Coast are going through right now. Members from both parties should repudiate his comments.

UPDATE 11:44 a.m. ET: Diane Wilson, the protester who interrupted Hayward's statement, is a fourth-generation Texas fisherwoman and co-founder of the protest group Code Pink, according to the Huffington Post.

She conducted a similar protest June 9, interrupting a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the Gulf oil spill by dousing herself with a jar of syrup, meant to look like oil.

UPDATE 11:37 a.m.: As is customary in congressional hearings, Hayward did not read the entirety of his long prepared statement. Here's the full text as prepared.

UPDATE 11:34 a.m. ET: The Associated Press identifies the woman who interrupted Hayward's statement as Diane Wilson. As Capitol police wrestled with her, she shouted to Hayward: "You need to be charged with a crime."

UPDATE 11:32 a.m. ET: As Hayward finishes his statement, the subcommittee is taking a recess for votes on the House floor. Stupak says it will be a 30-minute recess.

UPDATE 11:25 a.m. ET: Hayward is reading his opening statement.

UPDATE 11:23 a.m. ET: A protester begins shouting from the crowd as Hayward begins to read his statement. Stupak has stopped him while security officials remove her from the chamber.

UPDATE 11:22 a.m. ET: Opening statements have finished. Now we're heading into Hayward's testimony. He is at the hearing without a lawyer.

UPDATE 11:11 a.m. ET: Donna Christensen, the Democratic delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands, charges that BP officials "are not the only ones at fault," blaming the "complicity" of agencies in charge of overseeing the industry. She says focusing solely on BP is "a knee-jerk response" and holds out hope that "any other responsible party will be held accountable," too.

Christensen didn't name those parties, but the Interior Department's Minerals Management Agency has been widely criticized for its oversight, or lack of it.

UPDATE 11:03 a.m. ET: Hayward's promise to focus "like a laser" on safety when he landed BP's top job three years ago is a popular citation. Already, three committee members have quoted his words in their opening remarks.

UPDATE 10:56 a.m. ET: Partisan differences on the panel are crystallizing. Democrats are piling on BP and what they're characterizing as Hayward's obliviousness to the impact of the spill. Republicans are saying the spill is a tragedy but that BP shouldn't be destroyed in response for political reasons.

Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., encapsulates the GOP stance: "You have an obligation to safety," he tells Hayward, but "you also have an obligation to believe in the free market."

Gingrey says he is unhappy that no one from the scandal-plagued Minerals Management Service, the federal agency that oversees the oil industry, is present. "We are getting only one side of the story," he says.

UPDATE: 10:51 a.m. ET: Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, makes a powerful presentation by simply playing video of emotional testimony from the widows of three workers on the Deepwater Horizon.

"You will get no lecture from me," he tells Hayward, adding that he simply wants answers.

UPDATE 10:43 a.m. ET: Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., former chairman of the parent committee and a legendary industry watchdog, says BP has a long record of cutting corners "in pursuit of the almighty dollar." "Regrettably," he says, "assurances that they would not happen again have not been true."

"Last year, Mr. Hayward enjoyed a splendid 41 percent pay raise even as BP's profits fell 45 percent," Dingell says. "... It makes me wonder what the compensation package of our witness will be this year."

UPDATE 10:38 a.m. ET: Rep. John Sullivan, R-Okla., is the first member to go off script, using his statement to debate climate change. He says the investigation is a Trojan horse so Obama can pursue "his disastrous cap and trade energy policy.

UPDATE 10:34 a.m. ET: The panel members are already debating one another. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., chairman of the energy and environment subcommittee, another Energy and Commerce panel, addresses his remarks to Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who complained in his statement about a "$20 billion shakedown" of BP and said he was "ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday," when President Obama announced a BP-funded escrow fund to pay victims' claims.

"It is not a shakedown. It is not a slush fund," Markey says. "It is, in fact, President Obama ensuring that a company which had despoiled the waters of our nation is made accountable for the harm it has done to our people."

UPDATE 10:22 a.m. ET: Subcommittee Chairman Bart Stupak, D-Mich., is laying the groundwork for tying the oil spill to BP's corporate culture, noting numerous news reports highlighting Hayward's determination to streamline decision-making. He rhetorically asks Hayward — who can't answer yet — whether "it was wise to adopt this leaner decision-making process."

In a final dig, he alludes to a widely mocked remark Hayward and adds: "Mr. Hayward, I'm sure you will get your life back, with a golden parachute to boot." But the Gulf Coast will live with the consequences for years, he says.

UPDATE 10:13 a.m. ET: The interest in Tony Hayward's testimony means several members of the parent Energy and Commerce Committee are at the hearing, and Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and ranking Repubican Joe Barton, R-Texas, are making special opening statements of their own:

"There is a complete contradiction between BP's words and its deeds," Waxman says. " ... Under your leadership, BP has taken extreme risks ... and now the whole Gulf Coast is paying the price."

Barton is essentially defending BP from a rush to judgment, telling Hayward "I apologize" for the "political pressure that amounts to a shakedown." But it's likely to be a long morning for Hayward as members eviscerate him and his company before he is even allowed to say a word.