BP has moved to oust CEO Tony Hayward but the company must do more to signal they are cleaning up their act, according to one Democratic senator.


Sen. Jeff Merkley says BP has the worst record in the industry and they must replace Steve Flynn, the vice president in charge of safety, to show they are serious.

Flynn last week deflected an opportunity to take responsibility for the eleven workers that died when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded.

"So, you`re in charge of all this, right?" Sen. Al Franken asked Flynn at a Senate hearing. "You are responsible?"

"My role is to set standards, to advise executive management and those that are implementing those standards, and then to monitor trends and give advice to the executives if it's needed," replied Flynn. "But in BP, we're clear that the business line is accountable for delivering safety along with business, and safety is the first priority."

"Okay. I'm not sure what that answer meant. Do you feel responsible? Do you feel you have a responsibility to the safety of people working for BP?" pressed Franken.

"Sir, I have a part to play, and my role is to establish standards that extend company-wide and programs," said Flynn.

Merkley joined MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell Tuesday to talk about Flynn and BP's safety record.

"If BP's vice president for safety, Steve Flynn, isn't responsible for the explosion that killed 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon, then no BP executive is responsible?" O'Donnell asked Merkley. "Isn't that what BP is trying to tell us?"

"Well, absolutely," answered Merkley. "Steven Flynn came into our committee and he said in the beginning of his testimony, 'Safety is our top priority.' And we had before us all kinds of history of BP safety violations."

"Egregious violations in this industry, 760 out of 761 of them belonged to BP prior to this explosion. I mean, what do you have to do with a company like that to get real change? And what will you be looking for after Dudley takes over that you could call real change?" O'Donnell asked.

"Well, I think the first thing we`ll look for is whether Steven Flynn remains in charge of safety. This is a man who's been with the company for 25 years. He's been head of safety for a long period of time. He had every opportunity after previous disasters to make over the company, didn't do it. Maybe he tried. Maybe he wasn`t allowed. But whatever the reason, he didn't make it happen," said Merkley.

"Now, Senator Franken referred to BP in the hearing in terms of safety as an outlier, a company that seemed to be much more reckless than anybody else in the industry. Is that your feeling? Is the rest of the industry operating at a substantially safer level than BP?" O'Donnell wondered.

"There is no comparison. You have other companies like ConocoPhillips and so forth that may have two violations or four violations over the same time period that BP had 760. It is -- it's such a gap," said Merkley.

"And when I questioned Steven Flynn about this, he played the victim. He said, I'm so disappointed people would view us that way. And he almost -- and I said, well you almost sound like you're blaming the process, like you're the victim. And he said, well, they're looking at violations and they're not comparing apples and oranges. There was no taking responsibility for a series of egregious violations over a long period of time that just didn't take the lives of the Deepwater Horizon. That it was terrible and awful. But there were terrible and awful instances before in which at least 30 earlier workers had died due to the safety practices of this company," Merkley concluded.

This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast July 27, 2010.

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