Washington - Today marks the one year anniversary of the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that killed eleven men and led to the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
Big oil companies are still not legally bound to pay for their mistakes, said U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who has led the charge to remove the current $75 million liability limit that oil companies have to pay for economic damages. In January he reintroduced legislation (S. 214 and S. 215) that would remove the current cap for damages that have to be paid by companies when they are responsible for spills. The legislation would also eliminate the $1 billion per incident cap on payouts from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.
"One year ago BP, Transocean, and Halliburton were responsible for the most devastating oil spill in our nation's history," said Menendez, who has long emphasized the risks associated with coastal drilling. "Eleven are dead, fishermen and other coastal businesses are bankrupt, and the environmental cleanup is at best years away from completion.We have to send a message loud and clear to Big Oil: you make the mess, you clean it up. That's why I've reintroduced the Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act and why I am working with my fellow senators to ensure that if an oil company spills, taxpayers are not left on the hook to pay for the economic damages. The best way to prevent future spills is to make sure oil companies bear the full cost for their mistakes."
"It is important to remember that this spill occurred six months after a similar spill in Australian waters," said Menendez. "The industry and regulators were on notice and yet this spill still happened, because oil drilling is an inherently dangerous activity. That is why I will fight any renewed efforts to drill near the Jersey Shore.Not only is it a national treasure, but it is a primary driver of our state's economy."
The Big Oil Bailout Prevention Liability Act of 2011 (S. 214) would:
· Eliminate the $75 million liability cap for offshore oil spills.
The Big Oil Bailout Prevention Trust Fund Act of 2011 (S. 215) would:
· Eliminate the $1 billion per incident cap on claims against the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund and allow community responders to access the fund for preparation and mitigation up front, rather than waiting for reimbursement later.
· If damage claims exceed the amount in the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (currently $1.6 billion), then Treasury can temporarily refill the Fund and be repaid with interest once it is replenished.
·Eliminate the $500 million cap on natural resources damages.
Considering that the 5 largest oil companies enjoyed over $75 billion in profits in 2010 alone (even with the losses from the spill in the Gulf), these measures are reasonable to make certain that the people and businesses affected by an oil spill are made whole.