Posted by Matt Dempsey

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Tulsa World: Sullivan, Inhofe speak out on spill

by JIM MYERS World Washington Bureau

Monday, June 21, 2010

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WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. John Sullivan said he was shocked by what the Oklahoma Republican saw as arrogance on the part of BP CEO Tony Hayward in testimony last week before a key House panel on the tragic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"We must hold BP responsible for this spill, and questions still remain on why BP has one of the worst safety records of any major oil company operating in the United States,'' Sullivan said.

Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe also has made it abundantly clear that he is no friend of BP.

Not only has Inhofe insisted that BP must be held accountable, he has gone out of his way, at least initially, to praise the Obama administration for its approach to the environmental disaster.

That anti-BP theme is not the only one to surface within the state's congressional delegation as the oil spill continues.

Perhaps the most common note hit by Oklahomans in Congress about the ecological catastrophe in the Gulf has been a warning that it should not be viewed as a reason to push legislation that would punish the oil and gas industry as a whole.

"This tragedy should not be used as an excuse to roll back the gains we have made in finding new ways to develop our own energy resources as we will need more oil and natural gas to help meet growing demand for energy in the coming decades,'' Sullivan said after participating in the hearing that focused in on the beleaguered BP CEO.

He described BP as an anomaly and expressed confidence that despite Hayward's lack of candor in front of lawmakers, answers to why the explosion occurred will be provided.

Had that well been operated by one of the other major oil companies, Sullivan said, he does not think the incident would have occurred.

He specifically urged President Barack Obama to abandon efforts to push a national energy policy that in the congressman's view would harm the economy and lacks the support of the American people.

Inhofe also opposes so-called cap-and-trade legislation and credits BP with helping push it.

As Democrats came up with other legislation in the wake of the oil spill, he has had to take to the Senate floor repeatedly to bat them down.

Last week, in what he views as a huge win, Inhofe led the successful effort against an amendment to repeal what its proponent called $35 billion in tax breaks for oil companies.

Inhofe was pleased by the 35-61 vote to defeat the proposal.

"The bottom line is that we must hold BP and those accountable for the catastrophe in the Gulf,'' he said.

"They must be the ones who pay the price of the disaster, not an entire industry that helps produce American energy and American jobs.''

Variations of that theme have been expressed by other Oklahoma Republicans, Sen. Tom Coburn and Reps. Frank Lucas, Tom Cole and Mary Fallin, even though not all went after BP.

Cole accused BP of not being prepared and pointed to its "egregious'' safety violations and its error-riddled response plan.

He also has been critical of the Obama administration for what he sees as its failure to protect the Gulf from BP's recklessness and a sluggish response to the disaster.

During one radio interview, Cole recalled the second-guessing that the Bush administration suffered following Hurricane Katrina and apparently left the impression with some he viewed the oil spill as an "act of God.''

He believes that comment was taken out of context and later said BP bears enormous responsibility.In response to questions, both Cole and Sullivan said a news release on the Republican Study Committee's website describing as a "Chicago-style political shakedown'' the agreement BP reached with the White House on a $20 billion fund to pay for oil spill claims did not reflect their views.

Lucas and Fallin declined to say.

Sullivan also said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who created a political firestorm by repeating the shakedown comment and even apologizing to BP at last week's hearing, needs to go beyond the clarification Barton offered later.

Barton serves as the top Republican on the influential House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Sullivan also is a member of that panel.

While Oklahoma Republicans were carving out their stances on the ongoing crisis, Rep. Dan Boren, the state's lone Democrat in Congress, remained largely mum.

Boren has issued no public comments on the disaster but attended one hearing on its implications.