News Releases

Murray Calls on BP to Make Payments Not Promises

Jun 15 2010

In speech on the U.S. Senate floor Murray calls for eliminating the liability cap for big oil, pushes BP to establish a $20 billion payment fund, and highlights BP’s poor worker safety record


(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate urging the Senate to move forward with eliminating the liability cap on big oil companies for covering the cost of oil spills. Murray also called on BP to put forward $20 billion to set up an immediate fund for cleanup and damage compensation and expressed her frustration that BP officials have yet to come before her Senate Subcommittee on Workplace Safety to discuss their poor worker safety record.

More on the Big Oil Prevention Liability Act & Big Oil Bailout Prevention Trust Fund Act

Senator Murray’s full remarks are below:

Madame President, as we close in on two months since the deepwater explosion that set off the Gulf Coast Oil Spill the toll of this disaster continues to mount.

From the oil soaked pelicans we see on the front cover of the newspaper each day, to the tar balls that dot a previously pristine coastline, to the closed fishing grounds and half empty hotels, to the human impact felt in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and throughout the Gulf Coast region.

This disaster has reached into our economy, our environment, and the way that we see our energy future. But there is one place that it also threatens to reach – and that’s into our pocketbooks.

Madame President, when it comes to BP’s promises to cover all the costs associated with this disaster – I’m sorry – But I’m not ready to take them at their word. And that’s because as a Senator from the Pacific Northwest, I have seen first-hand what happens when big oil is allowed to make promises and not required to take action.

When the Exxon Valdez oil spill happened in 1989, I remember that company assuring the public that the economic and environmental damage would be paid for. And then I remember them fighting tooth and nail – all the way to the Supreme Court – to deny fishermen and families from my home state the compensation they were due.

So, I’m not impressed by BP’s promises and I’m not ready to take the word of a company with a track record of pursuing profit over safety. Instead, I believe it’s time for us to answer some very fundamental questions, like:

Who should be responsible to clean this up? Who should bear the burden for big oil’s mistakes? Should it be the taxpayers? Families and small business owners who are already being asked to bear so much?

Or should it be the companies responsible for this spill? Including BP—a company that made 6.1 billion dollars in profit in the first three months of 2010 alone?

Madame President, I co-sponsored the Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act because to me, the answer is clear.

I believe BP needs to be held accountable for the environmental and economic damage of this spill.

And I will fight to make sure taxpayers don’t end up losing a single dime to pay for the mess this big oil company created. To me, this is an issue of fairness if an oil company causes a spill, they should be the one to pay to clean it up—not our taxpayers.

This bill eliminates the current 75 million dollar cap on oil company liability. So taxpayers will never be left holding the bag for big oil’s mistakes.

This is straightforward. It’s common sense. It’s fair. And I have to say, Madame President, I am extremely disappointed that this common-sense bill continues to be blocked by the Republicans every time we bring it up.

But I am going to keep fighting for the Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act to pass. But that alone is not enough.

That’s why this week I also signed onto a letter to BP’s CEO asking him to back up promises their making to pay with action by requiring them to set up a $20 billion fund to begin covering the damages we will see.

And it’s also why I’m working to ensure this never happens in any other parts of our country.

I’ve always been opposed to drilling off of the coast of my home state of Washington, and this tragedy is just one more painful reminder of the potential consequences of opening up the West Coast to drilling.

The economic and environmental devastation caused by the Exxon Valdez disaster is still impacting the people and families and industries in my state.

Washington state’s coastal region supports over 150,000 jobs and generates almost 10 billion in economic activity - all of which would be threatened if drilling were allowed to happen off the West Coast.

That’s why I’m going to keep fighting for legislation that bans drilling off the West Coast and makes sure big oil companies are never allowed to roll the dice with Washington state’s economy and environment.

Madame President, we need to hold big oil accountable and make sure disasters like this never happen again.

But we also need to remember the workers who were killed and injured in this tragedy. We can’t forget that this is an issue that is larger than this one tragedy - the entire oil and gas industry has a deplorable record of worker and workplace safety. We need to make sure every worker is treated properly and protected—and that companies that mistreat workers are held accountable.

Madame President, we know that the oil industry is able to operate under stricter safety standards and regulations, because they are already doing so in Europe, Australia, and even in Contra Costa County, California, where the county has a set of stricter guidelines that have reduced injuries and fatality rates

But we also know that worker safety shouldn’t be measured just by injury rates—we should be looking at reducing dangerous conditions like fires, hazardous spills, and release of toxic gases. And when accidents do happen—we need to record them, learn from them, and build on a program to prevent them from ever happening again. And we need to make sure our workers are treated with respect and their rights are protected.

Like so many, I was appalled to read reports in the Washington Post last week about BP’s history of worker safety violations and numerous reports of worker intimidation.

No worker should ever feel that reporting safety violations could endanger their job. And no company should ever pursue the bottom line in a way that endangers their workers.

The Senate deserves answers from BP on worker safety conditions and how suppressing worker complaints could have contributed to this disaster.

So, I was extremely disappointed last week when I held a hearing to examine worker safety issues in the oil and gas industry and representatives of BP failed to show up. Failed to even show up.

Workers everywhere should be able to feel confident that their employers are putting their safety first, and companies that betray this trust need to be held accountable.

So Madame President, I am going to work to make sure that happens and I look forward to addressing these issues with BP in the coming weeks so we can get up to the bottom of this. I am also going to continue fighting to keep drilling away from the Washington state coastline.

And I am going to keep pushing to make sure taxpayers don’t have to pay for big oil’s mistakes.

Thank you, I yield the floor.