May 5th, 2010
08:35 AM ET
4 years ago

Senator: BP CEO balks at paying damages beyond $75 million cap

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, met with BP executives Tuesday on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, met with BP executives Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

Washington (CNN) - There were conflicting messages Tuesday from a Democratic senator from Florida and the CEO of BP about whether the oil giant will pay for all economic damages to workers and communities along the Gulf Coast facing possible harm from the large oil spill there.

The potential costs are huge and could go well beyond merely paying for the actual cleanup of the leaking oil. Federal law currently caps economic damages from an oil spill at $75 million and allows damages up to $1 billion to be paid for by a special industry-funded trust fund. To this point, BP's responses to questions about whether it will pay for damages beyond that cap have not been clear.

"What I've said is what I mean; all legitimate claims will be honored," BP CEO Tony Hayward said when CNN pressed him to clarify the company's position. He added that he thinks it's "inevitable" the cap will be exceeded.

However, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, who summoned Hayward and BP America Chairman Lamar McKay to his Senate office, said he heard a different message from the BP chief.

"He expects the $75 million to be exceeded," Nelson said after the approximately 45-minute meeting. "When I pressed him on who was going to be liable for the economic damages, not the cleanup damages - the economic damages - he said that will be something we will determine in the future."

Did Nelson take that to mean BP will fight paying for damages above the $75 million cap?

"Oh yeah," Nelson responded. "He said that is something that we will work out, we will discuss. I don't know that he used the work negotiate, but that was the impression."

Nelson introduced legislation Tuesday to raise that liability cap to $10 billion.

The BP executives met on the Hill or spoke by phone with the six U.S. senators from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida Tuesday.

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, said he didn't discuss the issue of liability with the company representatives but focused his discussion with them on how to cap the damaged well.


Filed under: Bill Nelson • Energy
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Make them pay or shut them down, this isn't a give and take situation.

    May 5, 2010 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  2. Rick McDaniel

    Here we go. Just go after them for all of the cost, even if it means you put them out of business. Do not allow them to escape their responsibility, for the worst ecological disaster ever, in the US.

    May 5, 2010 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  3. Upset in VA Still

    They should pay whatever it costs to clean up without a cap. It was their faulet and they have made enough profits to do so. Its time for all corporations to give back. The Bush years were very profitable for them so please spare me about costs.

    May 5, 2010 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  4. Chessnutz of Liverpool NY

    And who gets stuck with the bill no matter what? Even if BP paid for everything we the consumer will have those costs passed down onto us in higher prices for gas and heating oil, and if the Federal government pays we get the shaft in higher national debt and higher taxes.

    May 5, 2010 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  5. th

    BP and the company that owns the rig should pay for every penny it costs to clean up and loss o fmoney to the people who live in the areas that are affected. They should also pay the government for any manpower and time that the government employees spent to help with this mess. For all the years that there has been drilling for oil you would think that they would have something in place to take care of a leak faster. They are only worried about their own pocket books.

    May 5, 2010 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  6. Anonymous

    Senators please raise the cap that bush and Cheney gave these greedy oil barons to at least 10 billion dollars to help the people who through their negligence will destroy the lively hood of millions of people on the gulf coast and possibly the Atlantic coast. Don't let these weasels get out of their responsibility due to their negligence.

    May 5, 2010 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  7. Michael

    How many billions have they made in profits? And now they think $75 MILLION is too much to pay in cleaning up their own mess?
    What do these guys smoke for breakfast? And how many of our civil servants have they corrupted to even be able to talk that way?
    In China, they would have shot these guys immediately, then promoted their VPs and given them a week to fix the situation, then shoot them and promote the next in line, 1 week deadline (gotta love the pun) and so on.

    May 5, 2010 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  8. doug

    There needs to be an independent investigation of any sabotoge to this rig.

    It seems that a lib might have caused this, as they usually do create environmental disasters as they protest about how they care about the environment. It also seems convienent for Obama to now switch his pro drilling mainstream stance to apease his radical worshipers who want to criple our nation like Carter did in the 70s.

    Libs are crazy and sick.

    May 5, 2010 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  9. al in memphis

    So if your business was ruined by the carelessness of others and the money BP legally has to pay runs out before you get any, then you are really to small to do anything about it. BTW, don't forget to stop by BP's gas pumps and contribute some more to their quarterly profits.

    Gulf coast states don't get a fair portion of the revenue benefits from offshore drilling, but they have to endure an extreme exposure to their environment.

    May 5, 2010 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  10. Deborah/Kansas City

    Did anyone really think BP would pay for what they have destroyed; or that our Government would make them? The wealthy never seem to have to suffer for thier mistakes, the rest of us always do.

    May 5, 2010 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  11. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    If BP doesn't pay every legitimate claim, then they need to be taxed higher than anyone else so that the money can clean up their mess. They (and others) haven't done enough investing in the clean up technology as they should have.

    May 5, 2010 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  12. Anonymous

    Let's just "trust the oil companies" like Sarah Palin says we should. I'm sure they'll do the right thing. Not.

    May 5, 2010 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  13. richard in Montana

    How does "Pay, Baby, Pay" sound???????

    May 5, 2010 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  14. Fed Up!

    I understand that Mr. Hayward is playing coy about whether or not BP will pay for any expenses exceeding the legal cap.

    I just hope that he is smart enought to know that if BP doesn't pay for EVERYTHING, the ramifications and backlash from the American people against BP and the oil industry will cost them far more than a few paltry billion dollars.

    He needs to realize this oil spill is a game changing event and their in-the-pocket Republican senators and congressional reps will not be able to save them.

    May 5, 2010 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  15. waiting

    This is the free-market that the Sarah Palin and tea-party wants us to put our trust in for economic recovery? God help us!

    May 5, 2010 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  16. Anonymous

    This sort of law should not have a cap cost on it. These companies with record profits can afford to pay for these damages without hurting anything but a bonus or two.
    First, they are insured. Second, there is the fund, and third, when you report earnings of 5-30 billion dollars in a quarter, offering to pay pay 10 billion should be nothing. If it costs more then you negotiate, but step up and take the hit like any individual would if a tree fell on a neightbors home.

    May 5, 2010 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  17. Brink

    "Federal law currently caps economic damages from an oil spill at $75 million"

    I want to know how and when this became law, who proposed the bill and who voted for it. This is the same as legalizing crime. Someone please post this information because the American people have a right to know who is sold them out for a few petro dollars.

    May 5, 2010 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  18. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Not only should they have to be responsible for the cleanup, but they should be responsible for the economic relief for people along the Gulf Coast affected by this.

    May 5, 2010 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  19. rachel

    Maybe President Obama will give back some of the money he got from BP to help them with the cost.

    May 5, 2010 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  20. Larry

    Pursue your legislation to raise the cap to $10 billion. I don't think even that's enough for this spill but it beats $75 million.

    We'll be watching the Republican response to this.

    May 5, 2010 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  21. Dean

    If you have a $75 million cap why do you think that greedy oil companies will agree to pay beyond that amount?
    Why is British Petroleum drilling off the coast of Florida? I thought that right was limited to the Chinese.
    Why don't we just go off the coast of Yemen and drill there? Other countgries drill where ever.

    May 5, 2010 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  22. Dave Harris

    $75 million is such a paltry amount to BP. Their CEO alone probably makes more than that in a year's "compensation". While people are starving because their livelihood has been destroyed, these guys will still be dining at their 5 star restaurants.

    May 5, 2010 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  23. Dems lie to gain political ratings!!

    Nelson looks for political gain! Dems will say anything and do anything including lie to gain more control. When did Nelson get all his perceived Oil knowledge?

    May 5, 2010 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  24. teena

    Drill baby dril and spill baby spill. If they have to pay up then litigate litigate litigate!
    These oil companies SHOULD NOT bea allowed to drill if they DO NOT have the proper safeguards in effect. They are simply playing the odds that nothing will happen and if it does they they can drag out litigation until an oil company proponents are in the majority!
    Then payouts to big oil execs and the fisherman who make their livelihood from a single shrimp boat are oil out of luck.

    May 5, 2010 11:02 am at 11:02 am |