Much as asbestos claims continue to haunt manufacturers and insurers, the oil and resultant claims emanating from the Deepwater Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico are sure to persist.
Members of the Senate have introduced legislation that would raise the liability cap from for economic damages resulting from the spill from $75 million to $10 billion.
The Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act ensures that oil companies—and their insurance companies— are not allowed off the hook when it comes to paying for economic damages, says Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who sponsored the act along with Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).
“The bottom line is that oil spills can leave massive holes in the economy,” Menendez said in a statement. “If you spill it, you should have to fill it. We’re glad that the costs for the oil clean up will be covered, but that’s little consolation to the small businesses, fisheries and local governments that will be left to clean up the economic mess that somebody else caused.”
Lautenberg also stressed the breadth of the losses resulting from the spill, saying business revenues from fishing and tourism, natural resources damages or lost local tax revenues all need to be considered. “Throughout my career, I have stood by a fundamental principle: that polluters—and not the taxpayer—should pay to clean up contamination,” he said. “Oil spills should not be an exception to the rule. The oil companies must be held responsible for every cost related to an oil spill -- and that includes both the environmental and economic damages.”
While the fate of that bill remains to be seen, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D. Nev.) suggesting abolishing the damage cap altogether, noting that some estimates for damages from the spill already exceed $14 billion.
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