By MIKE SORAGHAN
BP PLC's global chief executive, Tony Hayward, privately balked at committing to paying all claims for economic damage caused by the company's oil spill, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) disclosed after the two met yesterday. That directly contradicts Hayward's public statements, including the ones he made moments before Nelson spoke.
"When I said 'Will you be responsible for the economic damages?' he said, "That's something we'll have to work out in the future,'" said Nelson, a longtime foe of drilling who has co-sponsored legislation to raise a $75 million cap on BP's legal liability for economic damages, retroactively, to $10 billion.
Just minutes before, in front of the same bank of television cameras outside Nelson's office in the Hart Senate office building, Hayward had said, "BP is taking very seriously its responsibility. ... All legitimate claims will be paid."
He added that the $75 million cap would "inevitably be exceeded."
But Nelson twice said that Hayward would not commit to paying damages. The two met for about 30 minutes yesterday evening in Nelson's Senate office at Hayward's request, and each went before the microphones afterward. Hayward gave a brief statement and answered a handful of questions. Nelson gave a detailed account of their meeting, at the time reading from notes of the session that had wrapped up minutes before.
Nelson said Hayward did not offer a position on raising the $75 million liability cap. The senator said he would consider trying to add the legislation as an amendment to the financial regulatory overhaul now before the Senate, while noting it is possible that such an amendment would be ruled out of order.