WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–The chief executives of BP Plc (BP, BP.LN), Transocean Ltd. (RIG) and Halliburton Co. (HAL) declined to testify this week before a panel of House lawmakers who are looking into the causes of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The move has a key Democrat vowing to take measures to compel the executives to appear.
The CEOs of all three companies–BP’s Robert Dudley, Transocean’s Steven Newman and Halliburton’s David Lesar–were asked to testify this week at a hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee.
That committee, led by Rep. Doc Hastings (R., Wash.), is reviewing the findings of a high-profile investigation that concluded earlier this year that all three companies broke rules that contributed to the oil spill.
The investigation was conducted jointly by the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Interior Department. The committee’s hearing on the investigation will be held Wednesday and the CEOs were asked to attend by the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts.
In separate letters sent to the committee Monday, the companies said their top chiefs wouldn’t appear at the hearing. BP said it was refusing because it already provided a top employee, BP America Vice President Ray Dempsey, to testify at an earlier hearing. It also said it couldn’t talk about the investigation because of ongoing litigation related to the spill.
“Given that BP already has provided a witness” and because of “the constraints imposed by numerous pending legal proceedings, BP respectfully must decline the invitation,” the company said in its letter to the committee.
Halliburton said its CEO, Lesar, has “significant world-wide responsibilities in leading the company” and will be out of the country. Transocean, meanwhile, said simply that its chief “will be unable to join you.”
All three companies provided top executives to testify at an earlier hearing on the spill investigation on Oct. 13, but their CEOs didn’t appear. Committee chairman Hastings “was satisfied with the way that hearing went,” committee spokesman Spencer Pederson said.
The company representatives weren’t available for immediate comment.
Markey is now vowing to take steps to compel the chief executives to testify before the panel.
“It is unacceptable for the heads of these companies to evade testifying before Congress in order to avoid answering questions about the U.S. government’s major report on the oil spill for which their companies share responsibility,” Markey said in a statement.
Markey said the CEO of Cameron International Corp. had also been asked to attend the hearing and declined to appear.
-By Tennille Tracy, Dow Jones Newswires