Is BP "Lying," Asks Dem, or Just "Incompetent"?

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., on "Face the Nation" Sunday, May 30, 2010. CBS

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said today that BP knew the initial estimates of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico from the site of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig were larger than what they were publicly stating was the flow.

In his appearance on CBS' "Face The Nation" Sunday, Markey said that once video of the oil leak became public, independent scientists confirmed that the flow was much higher than the initial estimates made public by the company.

Holding what he said was an "internal confidential BP document" attesting to what they believed was the rate of the oil escaping into the sea, Markey told CBS News political consultant John Dickerson that BP "believed in the first week that it was 1,000-14,000 barrels per day. But what they said publicly was that it was 1,000 barrels per day."

The Democrat, who is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, said that the amount of oil flowing is tied to any fee that may be imposed on the oil company resulting from the spill.

"BP has a stake in their own liability here," Market said. "That means that the fine which can be imposed upon them is dependent upon how many barrels per day is going out into the Gulf. If it's 1,000 barrels per day, it's a relatively low fine, but if it's 10,000, 15,000, 20,000 barrels per day, it could wind up billions of dollars in fines that BP executives have to pay to the federal government."

According to Markey, in the end, the focus was not on liability to the Gulf but liability to BP.

When Dickerson asked if he felt BP lied to the government, Markey said, "I think they were either lying or they were incompetent. Either way, the consequences to the Gulf and Mexico are catastrophic."

Markey also paints a grim picture of his confidence over BP's assessment of their next step to control the oil spill, now that the "top kill" procedure to stem the flow has been declared a failure.

"I have no confidence whatsoever in BP," he said. "I think they do not know what they were doing, in terms of anything that they're doing is going to turn out as they're predicting."

When Dickerson asked if BP should be held criminally responsible, Markey said, "Without question the word 'criminal' should be used in terms of an environmental crime against our country."

Later on the program, CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson commented on the possibility of a criminal investigation into BP. "I do know that seven senators have written a letter asking the attorney general to open a criminal investigation. I think we may see that.

Attkisson said the perspective taken so far by investigators is the possibility that BP obtained a permit to drill under false pretenses. "They said, remember, they could take care of any scenario, this would not happen," Attkisson said. "So far the inquiry is looking into whether leading up to this they misled the government - which may not have been doing its proper job in oversight but may have also been misled by BP."

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