Congress moves to lift oil spill liability cap
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Late last week the House of Representatives voted to lift the $75 million liability cap on oil spills we told you about earlier, part of the 1990 deal that in effect had consumers funding clean ups of Big Oil’s mistakes. The Senate is mulling its own version this week, but no one has a clear idea on whether it will act before the August recess. Even then, the chambers would have to reconcile the bills.
The House version also would add new standards for offshore drilling. Tellingly, the vote wasn’t a blow out (if you’ll pardon the oil pun), passing with a 16-vote margin, 209-193.
Republican leaders opposed it on grounds that it would further damage the Gulf’s economy and increase consumer gasoline prices. Democrats pushing the bill said it would help prevent another Deepwater Heritage-style disaster, and make sure the folks who cause such problems pay for cleaning the up.
One of the issues Republicans said they had with it: A new $2 per barrel tax for parks and wildlife refuges.
And the action came a couple of days before federal scientists announced some 5 million gallons of oil had gushed into the gulf, making it the worst accidental release of oil in history.
Oil-spill liability has a special significance for Californians, given the wells off the Central Coast and their own history of disaster.