As the New York Times reported Saturday, BP’s liability for is capped at $75 million:
Under the law that established the reserve, called the Oil Spill Liability Trust
Fund, the operators of the offshore rig face no more than $75 million in
liability for the damages that might be claimed by individuals, companies or the
The fund was set up by Congress in 1986 but not financed until after the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska in 1989. In exchange for the limits on liability, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 imposed a tax on oil companies, currently 8 cents for every barrel they produce in this country or import.
Companies that lose business — fishermen who cannot fish, or hotel owners who cannot rent out rooms — can seek damages. So can governments that see tax revenues decline.
Money can be sought by the states for expenses like restoration of a damaged wetland or compensation for loss of use of a resource.
In other words, fishermen, businesses hit by loss of tourism and states that lose tax revenue or have to pay for repair to or loss of resources can only seek $75 million from BP under current law.
But Congressmen Menendez, Lautenberg and Nelson have introduced legislation they’re calling the “Big Oil Company Bailout Prevention Act” to raise the limit from $75 million to $10 billion.
Here are the Congressmen’s statements in support of the bill:
Senator Menendez said: “The bottom line is that oil spills can leave massive holes in the economy. If you spill it, you should have to fill it. We’re glad that the costs for the oil clean up will be covered, but that’s little consolation to the small businesses, fisheries and local governments that will be left to clean up the economic mess that somebody else caused. We can’t let the burden fall on the taxpayers – we should ensure that those who cause the damage are fully responsible. There is no such thing as a ‘Too Big to Spill’ oil well, which is why we need this economic protection in place. With some predicting that this spill could potentially make its way up the eastern seaboard, and with future plans for drilling along the East Coast, I look at this bill as a safety net for our small businesses owners and fisheries on the Jersey Shore as well.”
Senator Lautenberg said: “Throughout my career, I have stood by a fundamental principle: that polluters—and not the taxpayer—should pay to clean up contamination. Oil spills should not be an exception to the rule. The oil companies must be held responsible for every cost related to an oil spill — and that includes both the environmental and economic damages. The devastation in the Gulf provides further evidence why we must protect and preserve the Atlantic from expanded oil drilling. I remain dedicated to keeping the Jersey Shore clean and our fishing, shellfish, and tourism industries strong.”
Sen. Bill Nelson said: “BP says it’ll pay for this mess. Baloney. They’re not going to want to pay any more than what the law says they have to, which is why we can’t let them off the hook.”