US & Canada

Raw emotions on day one of the BP oil spill hearing

Day one of the public hearings of the national commission into the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in New Orleans, and raw emotions were on display alongside the more tempered contributions.

The many different reactions to the spill were there for all to see.

This was the chance for the people of the Gulf Coast to give their reaction to what has happened, and finally, after a day of statements from officials and affected industries, it was the turn of those who had waited patiently.

Not all managed to get that far.

As the proceedings began, a man from Revolution newspaper stood up and denounced this as a capitalist oil spill.

He was escorted out by the police, as was Kimberley Wolf, who objected loudly to the use of dispersants to get rid of the oil.

She was taken out shouting: "Everybody has got to get upset about this."

Speaking to the BBC afterwards, she claimed the coastguard has no idea how damaging the dispersants are to the environment.

A thorough investigation

Then there were the carefully couched statements by the co-chairs of the commission.

President Obama has asked the panel to investigate what happened when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, and make recommendations to ensure it doesn't happen again.

Senator Robert Graham, co-chair and Democrat who represented Florida in the Senate for eighteen years, told the hearing how everyone grieved for the families of the 11 men who lost their lives on board the rig.

"I wish we had the power to bring you immediate solutions." he said. "But that's beyond our best abilities.

"We promise to give our best efforts," he pledged, adding that this would be a thorough independent investigation without any political objective.

That was pointed as a riposte to those who have criticised the commission for failing to represent the oil industry, and being weighted towards environmentalists and academics.

William Reilly, head of the environmental protection agency during the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the Republican co-chair, promised that the commission's work would poignantly remind America how much it treasured the Gulf.

The drilling moratorium

Restaurateurs, drilling companies, oyster distributors - all the intertwined industries of the Gulf Coast were represented at this hearing.

TJ Collins, the president of Oceaneering, said deep water drilling rigs were moving from the Gulf of Mexico because of the Obama administration's moratorium. A rig was already going to Egypt, he said.

Larry Dickerson CEO, of Diamond Offshore Drilling, said a high-tech, high-wage industry in which America was a world leader was being driven out.

At the day's end, there was a poignant note as Cherri Foytlin told the commission how her family had suffered since the drilling moratorium lost her husband his job.

"I have six kids, and I don't want to them to see us fighting. We don't trust you because of Katrina, so make it right." She said.

A crawfisherman came with his guitar, and strummed a song about people on the Gulf Coast losing their jobs. The commissioners listened sympathetically.

They will produce their recommendations in December.

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