By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) pounced on oil executives today with charges that all the big oil firms have nearly identical outdated emergency spill plans that reference “identical ineffective equipment.”

The plans, like the one used by BP for gulf drilling that references how to save walruses and lists a long-dead expert to call upon, reflect the industry’s inattention to the possibility of a major oil spill in the gulf or anyway.

The oil industry concluded that there was “zero chance of a disaster” in the gulf, Markey said, in opening¬† hearings on oil drilling practices with top executives from BP, Shell, ConocoPhillips, Chevron and ExxonMobil.

“When you believe there is zero chance of a disaster happening, you do zero planning.”

Markey, chairman of the House Energy and Environment subcommittee, also called out the oil company executives appearing before the committee for having spent less than one percent of one-tenth of their company’s billions in profits on research and development related to safety and remediation for oil accidents.

Furthermore, the companies have been drilling in the Gulf of Mexico for free, Markey noted, on leases that have cost the American taxpayers $50 billion in lost royalties.

“The free ride is over,” he declared. “Oil companies must pay their fair share to drill on public lands. Right now every single one of the companies here today and dozens of others are drilling for free in the Gulf of Mexico on leases that will cost American taxpayers more than $50 billion dollars in lost royalties.

Ranking committee Republican Fred Upton (R-Mich.) also said that Congress should make sure the “polluter will pay.”

“The American taxpayers should not be on the hook for the cost of this accident, both economic and environmental,” Upton said.

But Upton said that neither the disaster nor the hearings should be used to advance climate change and clean energy legislation, which he predicted would fail this year instead of passing by 7 votes in the House as it did last year.

Upton chided colleagues for wanting to ask the oil companies about their plans to move into renewable energy, an issue that he said “has nothing to do with this disaster.”

To see and hear more from the hearings, visit the C-Span feed.

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