Chairman Conyers, Ranking Member Smith, members of the committee. I am Darryl Willis, Vice President, Resources, BP America.
On April 29, 2010, I accepted the role of overseeing BP's claims process, which was established in the wake of the explosion and fire aboard the Transocean Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and the ensuing oil spill. I am here to share information with you about that claims process.
This horrendous accident, which killed 11 workers and injured 17 others, has profoundly touched all of us. There has been tremendous shock that such an accident could have happened, and great sorrow for the lives lost and the injuries sustained.
I would like to make one thing very clear: BP will not rest until the well is under control and we discover what happened and why, in order to ensure that it never happens again. As a responsible party under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, we will carry out our responsibilities to mitigate the environmental and economic impact of this incident.
I would also like to underscore that the causes of the accident remain under investigation, both by the federal government and by BP itself. I am not involved in the investigation process and have no independent knowledge of it. I thus am not in a position to answer questions about the incident itself or the investigation.
The BP claims process is integral to our commitment to do the right thing. We will be fair and expeditious in responding to claims. We have already paid out nearly $30 million in claims, and we will continue to operate the claims process for as long as economic losses caused by the oil spill continue. We understand how important it is to get this right for individuals and businesses, as well as for state and local governments.
Before describing our process to you, however, I'd like to add a personal note. My ties this Gulf Coast run deep. I was born and raised in Louisiana, and I went to college and graduate school there. At age 70, my mother lost her home of 50 years in Hurricane Katrina, and the recovery process was time-consuming and sometimes frustrating. I know firsthand that people in this region cannot afford lengthy delays in addressing economic losses caused by this spill. BP is committed to ensuring that they do not experience them.
Over the last few weeks, I have been traveling to communities affected by the spill. I have been to the parishes along the Gulf Coast in Louisiana and I have been in Mississippi and Alabama. I have participated in town halls, talked to people impacted by the spill, and fielded numerous inquiries about the claims process. I wish circumstances were different, but it has been a privilege to live and work again among the residents of the Gulf Coast.
Establishing the claims process
Let me now tell you about our claims process.
The explosion occurred late on April 20, and the Transocean Deepwater Horizon rig sank late on the morning of April 22. BP initiated the claims process on April 24 and had a toll-free call center in place on April 25. As noted, I personally became involved on April 29.
On that day, I traveled to Venice, Louisiana, a coastal community on the front lines. I spoke with local fishermen and shrimpers. Although BP had two claims offices open by that time, we did not yet have an office in Venice. I committed to stay in Venice until a BP claims office was opened.
On Saturday, May 1, at 8 a.m., we opened the doors to our new Venice claims office. We had approximately 100 claimants come through that same day, and have had a total of about 1000 since.