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House Panel Eyes BP Decisions In Gulf Blowout

Lawmakers are taking direct aim at BP's decision-making process — specifically, how the company weighed profits against safety concerns — ahead of an upcoming congressional hearing on the Gulf oil disaster.

Rep. Henry Waxman of California and Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan, the ranking Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, made public a letter to BP CEO Tony Hayward Monday that accuses BP of taking "risky procedures" to save time and money ahead of the Deepwater Horizon blowout.

Hayward is scheduled to testify before the committee Thursday.

The lawmakers say the committee's investigation has so far focused on five decisions made by BP with regard to the Macondo well, which they say was "significantly behind schedule," creating "pressure to take shortcuts to speed finishing the well."

Each decision "posed a trade-off between cost and well safety," the letter says, including:

1. A well design with few barriers to the flow of volatile gases.

2. Shortcuts during the cementing process that created channels in the cement that would permit gases to escape.

3. Inadequate evaluation of the effectiveness of the cement job.

4. Failure to circulate and check mud drilled from the well for evidence of gas pockets and other danger signals.

5. Lack of installation of a "lockdown sleeve" on the seafloor.

The lawmakers assert that on April 15 — five days — before the explosion, BP's drilling engineer called Macondo a "nightmare well."

"In spite of the well's difficulties, BP appears to have made multiple decisions for economic reasons that increased the danger of a catastrophic well failure," the letter says.

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