At two key Senate Committee hearings, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar urged Congress to ensure that oil companies take full responsibility for their actions, calling for the elimination of limits on oil companies' liability following disasters. At Environment and Public Works and Judiciary Committee hearings today and yesterday, Klobuchar challenged the current law that places a $75-million liability cap on the amount that oil companies are required to pay for disasters like the Gulf oil spill. Families that lost loved ones in these disasters also face caps when recovering damages stemming from their loss.
"The oil industry should be held to account for the safety, economic, and environmental consequences of their actions," Klobuchar said. "Most industries do not face caps on their liabilities, so why do oil companies get special treatment? These caps only encourage the risky behavior that caused the disaster in the first place."
At Tuesday's Judiciary hearing, Christopher Jones -- whose brother, Gordon, died on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded, caught fire, and sank last April -- testified about the difficulty his brother's wife and children will have providing for themselves because of certain caps on economic recovery by survivors.
At today's Environment and Public Works hearing, Klobuchar stressed that Exxon executives following the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill fought against paying damages and compensating fishermen for years, even after pledging to pay all costs. Klobuchar is a cosponsor of The Big Oil Bailout Prevention Liability Act, which would lift the liability cap for offshore drilling accidents and ensure that workers, coastal residents, fishermen, and taxpayers do not shoulder the burden of oil companies' risky behavior.
The oil slick has become one of the nation's worst environmental disasters in decades, threatening local industries and economies, as well hundreds of species of fish, birds and other wildlife throughout the Gulf Coast region.