May 4th, 2010
11:55 AM ET
8 years ago

Florida senator: Obama drilling plan 'dead on arrival'

Washington (CNN) - Democratic senators from two coastal states Tuesday called on President Barack Obama to reverse his call for expanded offshore oil exploration after a massive spill from a damaged well in the Gulf of Mexico.

"I will make it short and to the point: The president's proposal for offshore drilling is dead on arrival," Florida Sen. Bill Nelson told reporters.

Nelson and New Jersey Democrats Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg are also backing legislation that would raise the legal cap on damages oil companies must pay for oil spills from $75 million to $10 billion. BP, the company that owns the damaged well off the coast of Louisiana, must pay the full cost of cleanup - but Menendez said $75 million won't begin to compensate coastal communities for the costs the spill could inflict.

Obama announced in March that he wanted to open large swaths of U.S. coastal waters in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico to oil and natural gas drilling, a move that upset many of the administration's environmentalist supporters. The administration is pushing for a new energy bill that would rein in U.S. output of carbon emissions blamed for an increase in global temperatures, and sponsors hoped it would bring enough Republicans - who have supported new oil exploration offshore - on board to support the bill.

But with a ruptured well spewing an estimated 210,000 gallons (5,000 barrels) of crude into the Gulf of Mexico every day, Nelson said he would be willing to filibuster any bill that authorized new offshore wells. And Menendez said he wasn't willing to accept a tradeoff between the "obvious risk" of future spills and the oil produced, which he said would amount to "a few tablespoons of gasoline" for the average motorist.

Under federal law, BP is responsible for the cost of plugging the well and cleaning up the spill. But its liability for economic damages is limited to $75 million, with costs over that amount covered by a pool funded by an
8-cent-per-barrel tax on oil. And claims on that fund, currently about $1.6 billion, are limited to $1 billion per incident.

The legislation proposed by Lautenberg, Menendez and Nelson would raise the liability cap to $10 billion, eliminate the $1 billion-per-incident cap on the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund and let those hurt by a spill that exhausts that fund claim future revenues, with interest.

BP's first-quarter profits in 2010 were $5.6 billion, Menendez said. "I think they can be responsible for their actions, and so do my colleagues," he said.

Obama's drilling proposal had the support of Democrats like Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, where the oil industry is a major employer. But so is seafood, and the spill has endangered much of the habitat for shrimp, oysters and crab around the Gulf Coast. Landrieu told CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday that industry needs more "fail-safe processes" and the federal government should share the revenue generated with the states.

"This might be 100 percent of the nation's oil, but right now it's 100 percent of our risk," she said. But she added, "This is not the time to retreat or back up."

"We have got to find out what happened, correct it, and then continue to produce the oil and gas and energy that this country needs to operate. We cannot run this business offshore," Landrieu said.

Updated: 1:01 p.m.

Filed under: Bill Nelson • Bob Menendez • Energy • Frank Lautenberg • New Jersey • President Obama
soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. Generation Mugwump

    This President has endured a lot in the last couple of months. He does seem off to counteract and react at the appropriate time. Whether is a lack of leadership or understanding I don't know.

    But he does seem way off at times and seems disorganized as well.

    May 4, 2010 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  2. Larry

    Relax Nelson. We all know offshore drilling has to be reconsidered after this disaster.

    To all you moronic politicians–this is no time to be campaigning. This is a horrible calamity that will affect the lives of millions of people.

    If you want to be reelected...get your mugs on TV with solutions, not campaign slogans.

    May 4, 2010 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  3. Tom-Vermillion, Ohio

    Aah yes. Another Republican "pipe dream" down the drain. So much for the GOP "drill baby drill" platform. $75 million to $10 billion for oil spills? Is the GOP going to say no to that too? I just can't wait to hear their rebuttal to that.

    May 4, 2010 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  4. KLS

    Wonder if Palin and the Tea Party will still chant "Drill Baby Drill"

    It will take years if not decades to know the full extend of the damage the oil leak caused to the fragile ecosystem and the impact on our coastal environment or how many jobs will be lost.

    May 4, 2010 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  5. Dano

    It's a shame it takes a disaster of this magnitude to get Florida politicians – and maybe its citizens – to realize how important our beaches and coastline are to the well being of the state. Unfortunately it's probably too little too late as the massive oil slick heading our way does not recognize state boundries. I fear that the damage will take many years/decades to be fully cleaned up.

    May 4, 2010 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  6. Honcho

    Let's cut to the chase on this issue. 1. When was there established a legal cap on damages of $75 million for oil companies responsible for spills? 2. Who proposed the legislation that resulted in this cap? and 3. Lets see a list of who voted for it.

    How can we continue to function as a free people when our big businesses and politicians rig the system so that they get all the profit and the people get to bear the risk and pay for their negligence and greedy behavior. Is that what you call "founding principles"? I think not.

    May 4, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  7. Jeff in DC

    REMOVE the cap entirely. The only purpose of the cap is to protect oil companies.... how is that ANY DIFFERENT than a BAILOUT AT TAXPAYER EXPENSE? Are we saying the BP is too big to fail? But I guess the entire economy of the Gulf Coast isn't too big to fail. If BP has to go under and file bankruptcy to pay for the economic toll they've unleashed, SO BE IT.

    May 4, 2010 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  8. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert but...

    Generation Mugwump May 4th, 2010 12:05 pm ET
    "This President has endured a lot in the last couple of months. He does seem off to counteract and react at the appropriate time. Whether is a lack of leadership or understanding I don't know.
    But he does seem way off at times and seems disorganized as well."

    Dude, he's been on it since the beginning. Watch something besides Fox news for a change. Funny how the whole Halliburton angle is being downplayed in the U.S. media. Hmm... Have a nice day!

    May 4, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  9. Mike

    Nice time to play politics Mr. Nelson. We do need to increase oil production off of our coasts and everywhere else we can drill. The issue isn't drilling but having proper safety measures in place to help prevent accidents of this nature. The President did the right thing and actually didn't go far enough. When gas is over $5.00 a gallon and the economy is in chambles then you tree huggers will understand. Or maybe you won't, you are all kind of dense.

    May 4, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  10. moondrop

    We need the oil. drill drill drill

    May 4, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  11. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    The LAST thing this President is is disorganized and unfocused. This blah blah from another Totally Confused Moron (TCM) in the state of Florida should be used for fertilizer.

    Get your undies out of a knot Nelson. Your new President likes to think things out, get input from appropriate sources (THAT WOULD LEAVE YOU OUT NELSON!) and then make an informed decision. I know, we've never had a President this intelligent before. It's gonna take some getting used to. In the meanwhile, Nelson, you might want to observe and learn a thing or two from him.

    May 4, 2010 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  12. Robert

    Leave it to Sen. Bill Nelson to politicize this potential disaster in a weak attempt to salvage his flailing career. There are only two more years until he's voted back into the private sector.

    May 4, 2010 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  13. Fed Up!

    I can hear the cell phones ringing as the oil companies call their Republican lackeys to quash any possibility of rasing that liability cap at all.

    May 4, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  14. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    I would venture to say that the RethugliKKKlan one hit wonder "Drill, Baby, Drill" is going the way of vinyl records. Remember those?!

    May 4, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  15. gt

    thats typical of the those senators,,,

    May 4, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  16. Willy Brown

    Just drill here drillnow or unless you liberals have a better idea than just keep buying oil from people who don't like us anyway making them rich and us poor Quit chasing votes and grow some onions democrats

    May 4, 2010 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  17. Me! In Houston, Texas

    OH! YA THINK?!?
    I believe the only reason Obama wanted to open up the coast for drilling was to extend an olive branch to GOP drill baby drill crowd. It ws an attempt to get a bipartisan something passed. He wanted to show that we can find common ground on something. He did this much to the dismay and chagrin (get a dictionary conservatives) of his liberal supporters. Most of us have NEVER believed offshore drilling was safe and we knew any accident would be detrimental to the environment...THAT'S WHY WE WERE AGAINST IT!

    And then this happened. I say, THAT'S IT! No more compromise, no more attempts at bipartisanship. They will always hate Obama and try to make him fail. Conservatives and republicans are wrong on almost allissues anyway.

    May 4, 2010 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  18. Victim of GOP Taliban

    Yes it's over. The worst ecological disaster in U.S. history pretty much ends the debate. No matter how many times Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck try Jedi-Mind tricks to blame environmentalists – when in reality the right is led by Darth Cheney and his lobbyist golf pals.

    May 4, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  19. greg morris in jacksonville, fl

    @Larry,, Senator Nelson is not up for re-election this year. He is not campaigning on populist ideas for show.

    He is acting on behalf of millions of Floridians who do not want to endure what those in Louisiana are fixing to endure. He is doing his job. Please get your information correct next time you judge.

    May 4, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  20. Grog in Ohio

    "...The president's proposal for offshore drilling is dead on arrival,"

    Even as a strong supporter of President Obama, I'm certain to disagree with him from time to time. This is one of those times. Kudos to Senator Nelson.

    May 4, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  21. Liz the First

    Good! because millions of creatures are going to be 'dead on arrival' of the oil onto their home beaches and marshes. same for the fishing and tourist industries for all you folks out there who don't give a rodent's rump about the environment but live and breathe 'free enterprise'. as much as i support Obama's agenda, i'll have to go against this one. we need to go to safe, clean nuclear power and all the alternative renewable energy sources in the works now. No wind spill ever contaminated a beach.

    May 4, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  22. greg morris in jacksonville, fl

    @Dano, Senator Nelson has always been against increased offshore drilling as have millions of Floridians, including myself. Dont think that the state is full of marco rubios, many of us care about our coastlines, environment and eco-systems.

    May 4, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  23. Continue Off Shore Drilling!!

    When 9/11 occurred, did everyone stop going to work? When an aircraft goes down, do we stop Flying? When Challenger or another Space Shuttle goes down, do we stop our Space Exploration program? When you run for office and you loose, do you never run again? NO, you pick up, clean up and learn from your mistakes, learn from what went wrong and study how to make it better in the future.

    If America does not continue Off-Shore Drilling the Middle Eastern Oil Barrons will continue to screw America. You think our oil prices are outragous now you wait until they see that America needs the Middle East for oil.

    Obama, Nelson, and the rest od politicians need to stop using this for political gain! Address the issues at hand so that we can move on!

    May 4, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  24. insightful

    I see methodical, comprehensive, thoughtful effective responses from this President and his administration. It would seem that past missteps by previous administrations has been implemented into Obama's, by now, flushed playbook.

    May 4, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  25. Jay

    Can somebody explain why there should be a cap of 75 million?

    Is this another of the Bush/Cheney gifts to the oil industry?

    May 4, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
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