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Oberstar authors oil liability bill

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The $75 million liability cap on oil company clean-up efforts in the event of a spill would be removed under a bill authored by U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar.

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Oberstar, DFL-8th District, introduced his Oil Spill Accountability and Environmental Protection Act Tuesday, and will be considered today by the full House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that Oberstar chairs.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, a U.S. Senate panel passed a bill which would remove the caps.

The actions stem from British Petroleum's massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which began in April with an oil rig explosion that left 11 dead. BP has yet to stop the leaking oil from the ocean floor.

"The Deepwater Horizon disaster has also demonstrated that the current limits of liability, including the levels of financial responsibility for responsible parties, are insufficient to address a potential worst-case scenario on the release of oil for offshore facilities, and have called into question the current limits of liability for other vessels as well,' Oberstar said in introducing his bill.

"With the expected costs of the Deepwater Horizon disaster expected to be in the tens of billions, and the agreement by BP to set aside $20 billion in escrow to cover potential costs related to the spill, it is clear that the $75 million liability cap for offshore facilities needs to be significantly increased or removed," he said.

In addition to removing the $75 million cap, Oberstar's bill would require companies engaged in drilling activity to be responsible for 100 percent of oil pollution clean-up costs and damages to third parties.

In the Senate, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed legislation that would eliminate the liability caps for oil companies following disasters. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minn., is coauthor of a bill that would lift the liability cap for offshore drilling accidents and ensure that workers, coastal residents, fishermen and taxpayers are compensated.

"The oil industry should take full responsibility for the safety, economic, and environmental consequences of its actions," Klobuchar said Wednesday. "Removing the liability cap will mean that the companies at fault, and not the American taxpayer, will be fully responsible for compensating the country for disasters like the Gulf oil spill. I look forward to voting for this bill in the full Senate."

At an EPW Committee hearing earlier this month, Klobuchar discussed the effect that major oil spills have on families and businesses. Klobuchar highlighted the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill where Exxon executives fought against paying damages and compensating fishermen for years, even after pledging to pay all costs.

An estimated 8,000 of the original Exxon Valdez plaintiffs died while waiting for their compensation as Exxon fought them in court, Klobuchar told the panel. The Deepwater Horizon spill has far surpassed the Exxon Valdez spill.

In addition to removing the liability caps, Oberstar's House bill would also:

E Requires that oil rigs operating in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (200-mile zone) to be U.S. Flag vessels owned by U.S. citizens. This ensures that rigs will be subject to U.S. safety regulations.

E Improved licensing for oil rig captains.

E Requires the Coast Guard, Department of Transportation and EPA to sign off on spill response plans for offshore drilling operations and then makes those plans publically available.

E Specifically states that response plan waivers will not be allowed. BP was able to obtain such a waiver from the Bush administration and did not submit a plan to deal with the failure of its blowout preventer valve, Oberstar said.

E Directs the EPA to re-evaluate and revise the process used to approve chemical dispersants.

The $75 million liability cap on oil company clean-up efforts in the event of a spill would be removed under a bill authored by U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar.

Oberstar, DFL-8th District, introduced his Oil Spill Accountability and Environmental Protection Act Tuesday, and will be considered today by the full House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that Oberstar chairs.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, a U.S. Senate panel passed a bill which would remove the caps.

The actions stem from British Petroleum's massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which began in April with an oil rig explosion that left 11 dead. BP has yet to stop the leaking oil from the ocean floor.

"The Deepwater Horizon disaster has also demonstrated that the current limits of liability, including the levels of financial responsibility for responsible parties, are insufficient to address a potential worst-case scenario on the release of oil for offshore facilities, and have called into question the current limits of liability for other vessels as well,' Oberstar said in introducing his bill.

"With the expected costs of the Deepwater Horizon disaster expected to be in the tens of billions, and the agreement by BP to set aside $20 billion in escrow to cover potential costs related to the spill, it is clear that the $75 million liability cap for offshore facilities needs to be significantly increased or removed," he said.

In addition to removing the $75 million cap, Oberstar's bill would require companies engaged in drilling activity to be responsible for 100 percent of oil pollution clean-up costs and damages to third parties.

In the Senate, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed legislation that would eliminate the liability caps for oil companies following disasters. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minn., is coauthor of a bill that would lift the liability cap for offshore drilling accidents and ensure that workers, coastal residents, fishermen and taxpayers are compensated.

"The oil industry should take full responsibility for the safety, economic, and environmental consequences of its actions," Klobuchar said Wednesday. "Removing the liability cap will mean that the companies at fault, and not the American taxpayer, will be fully responsible for compensating the country for disasters like the Gulf oil spill. I look forward to voting for this bill in the full Senate."

At an EPW Committee hearing earlier this month, Klobuchar discussed the effect that major oil spills have on families and businesses. Klobuchar highlighted the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill where Exxon executives fought against paying damages and compensating fishermen for years, even after pledging to pay all costs.

An estimated 8,000 of the original Exxon Valdez plaintiffs died while waiting for their compensation as Exxon fought them in court, Klobuchar told the panel. The Deepwater Horizon spill has far surpassed the Exxon Valdez spill.

In addition to removing the liability caps, Oberstar's House bill would also:

- Requires that oil rigs operating in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (200-mile zone) to be U.S. Flag vessels owned by U.S. citizens. This ensures that rigs will be subject to U.S. safety regulations.

- Improved licensing for oil rig captains.

- Requires the Coast Guard, Department of Transportation and EPA to sign off on spill response plans for offshore drilling operations and then makes those plans publically available.

- Specifically states that response plan waivers will not be allowed. BP was able to obtain such a waiver from the Bush administration and did not submit a plan to deal with the failure of its blowout preventer valve, Oberstar said.

- Directs the EPA to re-evaluate and revise the process used to approve chemical dispersants.

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