BP Hires Ex-Energy Official Anne Kolton as Head of U.S. Media Relations

BP Plc has hired Anne Womack Kolton, a former spokeswoman for Vice President Dick Cheney and for the Energy Department, as head of its U.S. media relations.

Kolton, who joined today from Washington-based public affairs consultancy APCO Worldwide, was director of public affairs at the Energy Department from 2005 to 2007 under former Secretary Samuel Bodman, Sheila Williams, a BP spokeswoman, said in an e-mail today.

Before that, she had been an assistant press secretary for President George W. Bush and was press secretary for Cheney during the 2004 presidential campaign.

Kolton, 34, starts her job on the same day London-based BP had the largest drop in its share price since 1992 after its failed attempt to plug a leaking oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. President Barack Obama today called the BP leak “the greatest environmental disaster of its kind in our history.”

The company’s shares fell the most in 18 years in London, dropping 64.80 pence, or 13.1 percent, to 430 pence at 4:35 p.m. BP’s stock has fallen 34 percent since an April 20 explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, resulting in the deaths of 11 workers.

Kolton didn’t immediately respond to a voicemail message left on her mobile phone today.

Coast Guard Changes

BP’s previous head of U.S. media relations, Ronnie Chappell, retired in mid-March. Chappell, who had been based in Houston, coordinated BP’s response to an explosion at the company’s Texas City refinery in 2005, which killed 15 workers.

The U.S. Coast Guard also changed one of its public voices today. Rear Admiral Mary Landry, who has been the federal government’s on-scene coordinator since the rig exploded, was replaced by her deputy, Rear Admiral James Watson, the Coast Guard said in a statement.

Landry will resume her pre-spill duties as commander of the guard’s 8th district in New Orleans, where she will coordinate preparations for hurricanes in the Gulf, the Coast Guard said. Her return to that position at the start of hurricane season today “has been the plan since the beginning,” Coast Guard Commandant Robert Rapp said in the statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Swint in London at bswint@bloomberg.net.

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