Murkowski Backs BP Bailout

Democrats this afternoon attempted to bring up their Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act, a measure that would raise the liability cap for major spills like that currently underway in the Gulf to $10 billion. Under the current law, BP could be on the hook for only $75 million total for the spill—which is far, far less than this spill is going to cost.

Even a $10 billion cap could still be too low; some analysts predict that the total cost of the BP spill could hit $14 billion. Raising the cap, one might think, would be a popular move for Congress. It would both force BP to pay up all it owes to the Gulf Coast, and also ensure that any companies that embark on risky drilling ventures do a better job of ensuring safety and adequate clean-up plans. BP could surely afford to pay the full costs; after all, the company pulled in $5.6 billion in profits in just the first quarter of this year. But Republicans objected to the move.

The block was led by Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski who valiantly stood up for the rights of oil companies, big and small, to dump oil into our waterways with little fear of liability:

The reason I stand and object at this point in time is I don’t believe that taking the amount of the cap, if you will, the liability cap from $75 million, where it currently is, to $10 billion in strict liability, 133 times the size of the current strict liability limit, is where we need to be right now.

This has been named the “Big Oil Bailout Prevention Liability Act.” But I think you’ve got some irony here in that what this would do is give all of America’s offshore oil resources to the biggest of Big Oil. It would be impossible or perhaps close to impossible for any energy company that is smaller than the super majors, smaller than the national oil companies, to operate in the OCS. $10 billion in strict liability would preclude their ability to obtain financing, to obtain the bonds or insurance for any exploration, and look at who is producing in the offshore? It’s the independents. They produce two-thirds of natural gas, one-third of the oil.

Yep, just sticking up for the little guys.


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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.