Menendez: "This Accident was not a Fluke. It's Time to Stop Coddling Oil Companies"

Washington - With just-released court documents finding that a senior BP official resigned only months before the Gulf oil spill due to concerns about the company's focus on safety, US Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today reiterated his call for full accountability of big oil for oil spills. Menendez has led the charge to remove the $75 million liability limit for economic damages that oil companies currently enjoy and has long emphasized the risks associated with coastline drilling.

Court documents released yesterday show that a senior vice president for drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico resigned in late 2009, citing problems with BP's safety protocols. Just months later, BP caused the worst oil spill in US history.

Senator Menendez said, "Here's a simple rule when it comes to coastal drilling - there is no such thing as 'Too Safe To Spill.' And today's news proves that point again. This accident was not a fluke. The best - and perhaps only - way we are going to prevent major oil spills in the future is if oil companies know they will pay for every cent of the damages they create. It's time to stop coddling oil companies. It's time to hold them to the same standard that average citizens - you make the mess, you clean it up."

While President Obama compelled BP to create its $20 billion fund, Menendez said it was more than troublesome that only two final settlements for long-term losses have been reached. In January, the presidential Deepwater Horizon oil spill commission released a report saying that systematic failures in industry and government safety oversight could lead to another catastrophic deepwater oil spill.

Menendez's Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act would:
* Raise the liability cap for offshore oil well spills from $75 million to an unlimited amount
* 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 damages claims exceed the amount in the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (currently $1.6 billion), then claimants can collect from future revenues of the fund, with interest.
* Eliminate the $500 million cap on natural resources damages.