With estimates that the oil spill off the Gulf Coast may be the costliest in American history, Congressman RushHolt and Paul Hodes have sponsored a proposal to ensure that oil companies are held accountable for paying economic damages resulting from spills.
While the responsible party in an oil spill currently must pay for all clean up costs and all costs related to clean up, there is a $75 million cap on its liability for economic damages, including lost business revenues from fishing and tourism, natural resources damages, or lost local tax revenues. The bill would raise the liability cap from $75 million to $10 billion. The liability could be made retroactive, ensuring that BP is on the hook for the economic damages resulting from the Gulf Coast spill.
"The American public repeatedly is told that drilling off our shores is safe and reliable -- yet when a devastating spill like this hits, it's taxpayers who have to help cover the damages," said Holt, who has spoken out against off shore drilling. "In a fair and just world, companies like BP should pay for every last cent of the mess they've made, not taxpayers, not the tourism industry, not the fishing industry, not small businesses. Our bill is clear: the buck stops with oil companies; it shouldn't spill over to taxpayers."
"As the law stands right now, oil companies are eyeing a backdoor bailout to skip out on major cleanup costs. I want to slam that door shut", said Hodes. "This will make it absolutely clear that oil companies are responsible for cleaning up their own messes. Taxpayers simply will not allow huge oil companies to run up massive profits and then skip town when the check comes, sticking us all with the bill."
The Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act would:
* Raise the liability cap for offshore oil well spills from $75 million to $10 billion.
* 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.
* Allow claimants to collect from future revenues of the fund, with interest, if damages claims exceed the amount in the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (currently $1.6 billion).
* Eliminate the $500 million cap on natural resources damages.