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."
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.