Texas congressman calls escrow account for victims’ compensation “slush fund”
The ranking Republican representative on the congressional oversight committee conducting hearings into the causes of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster began his remarks to the committee earlier today by offering an apology to the star witness BP CEO Tony Hayward for what Barton called “a $20 billion shakedown” by U.S. President Barack Obama.
Barton was referring to the Obama administration’s agreement yesterday with BP PLC that will see the multinational giant pay $20 billion into an escrow account under the auspices of an “independent third party” to cover the costs of anticipated claims by Gulf coast fisherman and other victims of the April 20th explosion.
The longtime supporter of the coal industry–which earned him the nickname “Smokey Joe”–raised more than a few eyebrows when he castigated the Obama administration for its “unprecedented” move in creating what he called the “slush fund” without legal authority and in advance of “due process” for the embattled oil company.
Barton’s apology was immediately jumped upon by Democratic committee member Ed Markey of Massachusetts who disputed that it was a “shakedown” for the president and congress to hold accountable a company that had consistently flaunted safety issues in its Gulf and American operations and had already refused documented compensation claims submitted to BP by Gulf shrimp fishermen.
According to Markey, who relinquished his prepared three-minute address to rebut Barton’s apology–this was an example of “the United States government at its finest”.
All of these opening salvos precede the anticipated grilling that Hayward will receive before the committee into the rest of the day.