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Former CEO makes cameo at BP oil spill trial

BP former chief executive Tony Hayward.

BP former chief executive Tony Hayward.

NEW ORLEANS — Once the object of ridicule and focus of outrage after the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, former BP chief executive Tony Hayward made a cameo appearance Wednesday in a trial to decide how much blame the company must shoulder for the disaster.

Hayward did not attend in person. Instead, he showed up just briefly on a videotape in what may be his only appearance in the courtroom.

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Hayward, who famously said, ‘‘I’d like my life back’’ at the height of the spill, is not expected to take the witness stand in the trial. Hayward did testify in person before Congress and gave a videotaped deposition for this trial, but his role may be limited here by his lack of direct knowledge of the drilling operations on the Deepwater Horizon.

Still, lawyers for the US government and Gulf Coast residents and businesses showed a 20-minute snippet of his deposition, projecting the video on a large white screen in the courtroom.

The lawyers have said the London-based company bears most of the blame for the spill and they accused BP of putting profits ahead of safety by cutting corners on a project that was over budget and behind schedule.

Previous testimony

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‘‘I believe that the role of leaders is very important in shaping the culture of an organization,’’ Hayward said in the videotape.

He also said cost-cutting measures in the years before the 2010 spill did not have an effect on drilling operations, comments that differed from excerpts of a videotaped deposition from Kevin Lacy, who served as BP’s senior vice president for drilling operations in the Gulf before resigning several months before the spill.

Lacy said BP slashed between $250 million and $300 million from its Gulf drilling budget from 2008 to 2009 while at the same time its production rose by more than 50 percent. ‘‘I was never given a directive to cut corners or deliver something not safely, but there was tremendous pressure on costs,’’ Lacy said.

US District Judge Carl Barbier is presiding over the trial designed to identify the causes of BP’s Macondo well blowout and assign percentages of fault to the companies involved.

If BP is found guilty of gross negligence, it could be on the hook for nearly $18 billion.

The rig explosion killed 11 workers, and the broken well dumped an estimated 172 million gallons of oil into the Gulf.

Barbier listened to the videotape that featured a lawyer asking Hayward about a speech he gave just five days before the blowout.

Hayward spoke about the company’s ‘‘drive to increase efficiency and reduce costs’’ and also drew a distinction between reducing ‘‘corporate overhead’’ and cutting ‘‘corporate operating costs.’’

Rig owner Transocean Ltd. and cement contractor Halliburton also are defendants and their lawyers have tried to minimize their roles in the disaster.

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