On April 20, 2010, the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, owned and operated by Transocean Ltd., and contracted by BP to drill in the Gulf of Mexico, unexpectedly caught fire, exploded and sank roughly 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana. This explosion not only cost 11 crewmembers their lives, it left oil flowing from an uncapped, damaged pipe located 5,000 feet below the ocean surface.
I am outraged by the behavior of BP and Transocean and their apparent lack of oversight by the federal regulators that led to this crisis. I am demanding answers from BP, Transocean and the Obama Administration on this entire situation. I am working with my colleagues to force BP to pay for all the clean up and whatever damages they caused.
Protecting Taxpayers from cleaning up BP’s mess:
I am a cosponsor of S. 3472, the Big Oil Bailout Prevention Liability Act of 2010. This bill would eliminate the liability cap, which is the maximum amount oil companies are required to pay for economic losses related to the spill. Currently, the responsible party in an oil spill must cover all costs related to clean up. However, there is a $75 million cap on liability for economic damages, such as lost business revenues from fishing and tourism, natural resources damages or lost local tax revenues.
I am a cosponsor of S. 3306, the Big Oil Bailout Prevention Trust Fund Act of 2010. The trust fund is an industry-funded safeguard for economic damages after the responsible parties reach their caps. This bill would abolish the current $1 billion per incident cap on claims against the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund and allow community responders to use the fund for preparation and relief up front, versus waiting for reimbursement at a later date.
I have participated in several hearings as we work towards understanding the circumstances surrounding this devastating event:
On June 10, 2010, I chaired an Employment and Workplace Safety subcommittee hearing where we reviewed the practices of oil and gas company tragedies including the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion and the Tesoro refinery accident in Washington state. I questioned witnesses on the lessons learned from past disasters, as well as what changes and safety measures are needed to better protect workers in the oil and gas industry. - Video
On June 15, 2010, I signed a letter to the CEO of BP demanding the company establish a $20 billion fund, which would be administered by an independent third party, for cleanup and damage compensation resulting from their oil spill because it is too early to know the full economic and environmental impacts this spill. This fund will set aside necessary funds to ensure claims from residents are paid.
On June 17, 2010, I signed a letter with many of my Senate colleagues to Attorney General Holder requesting the Department of Justice open a criminal investigation. This request stems from reports that BP has withheld and falsified information surrounding the quantity of oil spilling into the Gulf. We are very concerned BP has been withholding information and hindering data collection while misrepresenting the magnitude of this spill. I believe this is a critical matter and we cannot move forward and work towards returning the Gulf to pre-spill standards without honest information.
On June 16, 2010, after a meeting with President Obama, BP announced it will contribute $20 billion to an independent accountability fund to pay claims resulting from the Gulf Coast spill. I believe this is an important step for BP to begin the long process of resolving the environmental and financial impacts of this spill. However, oil from the damaged pipe is washing ashore in marshes, wetlands and beaches along the entire Gulf Coast and there is still much work to be done.
I have heard from many Washingtonians regarding the BP Gulf oil spill, its environmental impacts and our need for clean energy legislation. Like you, I am deeply concerned about record-high energy prices and our continuing dependence on foreign oil. As Congress continues to deal with energy and natural resource extraction issues, I will be working to ensure that we institute a sensible, comprehensive energy policy that focuses on renewable energy and decreases our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels.