Just Three Senators Question BP in Hearing


If BP America President Lamar McKay worried about tough questioning by the Senate Homeland Security Committee today, he need not have been too concerned.

Fresh from a long weekend break, only three Senators - Joseph Lieberman, Susan Collins, and Mark Pryor - of the 17-member Homeland Security Committee showed up to ask any questions at all. Others popped in and out of the panel.  

Lieberman and Collins praised McKay for the fact that BP has cooperated with the investigation, and promptly dismissed him before a full 45 minutes had passed.

He wasn't asked about last night's 60 Minutes exclusive that opened a number of new questions in the disaster.

Senators seemed a bit more miffed at the federal Minerals Management Service. That's the branch of the Interior Department that oversees offshore oil drilling. They said that officials from MMS had, unlike BP, refused to appear at the hearing. Shortly before the hearing, word came that a key official at MMS would be retiring early: at the end of the month. 

Special Section: Disaster in the Gulf

In the short time McKay appeared before Senators today, he acknowledged that there was never a contingency plan for the scenario that has occurred. The Coast Guard didn't have one either. McKay said that if all else fails, the relief wells that could stop the leak will take months to dig and complete. He said that emergency response plans across the board for offshore oil drilling will have to be rethought in light of what's happened and how ill-prepared everyone seemed to be. Maybe McKay's questioning need not have been longer. Too much is still unknown. And there will be more hearings down the road.

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  • Sharyl Attkisson
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    Sharyl Attkisson is a CBS News investigative correspondent based in Washington.