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Markey: Hearing to determine whether 'BP is the rule or the exception'

From Dana Bash, CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent
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Can other oil companies handle a spill?
  • CEOs of BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell Oil will appear
  • Committee Chairman Ed Markey says "highly unlikely" companies prepared for massive spill
  • Markey says hearing is to determine "whether or not BP is the rule or the exception"
  • BP CEO Hayward also to appear before separate House committee hearing Thursday

Washington (CNN) -- One of BP's most outspoken critics on Capitol Hill says he does not think BP is alone in lacking contingency plans to deal with a massive oil spill.

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, will try to prove that theory Tuesday when the CEOs of five major oil companies come before his House Energy and Environment subcommittee.

In an interview with CNN previewing his hearing, Markey said he thinks it's "highly unlikely that any of these oil companies had a capacity to respond to a worst-case scenario."

"Yes, they say in their representations to the Department of Interior that they have that capacity, but I don't think there is any evidence that is in fact true," said Markey, standing in front of his chairman's desk in his committee hearing room.

The witness list for Tuesday's hearing includes chief executives of BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Shell Oil.

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Markey, a longtime opponent of deep-water oil drilling, said the purpose of the hearing will be to "establish whether or not BP is the rule or the exception."

But even before any of the CEOs raise their hand to be sworn in, Markey seems to have concluded that BP's problems are the rule.

Markey said if other oil companies had contingency plans built into their systems, "we would have seen it thus far in giving support to BP to deal with this catastrophic event."

In advance of a separate hearing Thursday with BP CEO Tony Hayward, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman released a letter warning him to be prepared to answer questions about that committee investigation's early findings, that BP "repeatedly chose risky procedures in order to reduce cost and save time and made minimal efforts to contain the added risk."

Markey said he will use his hearing Tuesday with all of the big oil chiefs to probe BP's competitors about whether they have used similarly risky procedures on their oil rigs.

"What are the representations, the promises that the other oil companies can make that this kind of an accident would not have occurred?" Markey said.

"But we have follow-up questions. If an accident did occur, what in fact would be their response to make sure the oil did not hit the beaches and hurt the beaches and what would their liability be?"

Markey said he will also use the spectacle of five oil executives at a witness table to press them to back a push by many Democrats to eliminate the current $75 million cap on liability costs in such spills.

"If we decide to bring legislation to Congress, will we have the oil companies' support for lifting that liability, and ensuring that it is unlimited to ensure those who create the problems are responsible for cleaning it up?" Markey said, previewing his question for the oil executives.

The last time Markey had five oil executives before his committee was in 2008, to press them about why the price of gasoline had gone above $4 a gallon.