May 4th, 2010
11:55 AM ET
13 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. ML

    generation mug: I'm thinking he seems off only because he's trying to pander to the right winged bats. HUGE mistake. When will people learn that doing that is only going to lead to disaster?

    May 4, 2010 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  2. gt

    4 dollars a gallon may bring it to life...

    May 4, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  3. Wisconsinite

    To ALL, Democratic and Republican alike, politicians who want to use this disaster to make political hay . . . . try to be a decent citizen for once and just STOP! The POTUS has already said that no new off-shore drilling will move forward until we know: 1 What caused this disaster and 2. How to prevent it in the future.


    May 4, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  4. Maria H-Miami

    As a Floridian,

    Thank you, thank you, thank you to the Senators saying no to more drilling.

    Many of us in Florida have been against drilling yet numerous people were saying that it was good to help us get away from foreign dependency, lower our costs, etc....and many of us were criticized.

    I will never understand why President Obama decided to drill more when he originally (if I remember correctly) was not in favor of President Bush wanting to drill more.

    Why would Obama now agree with President Bush and Gov. Sarah Palin on more drilling?

    What is wrong with Sen. Landrieu? I can't believe she wants to continue drilling? Why would she want to this to the environment?

    May 4, 2010 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  5. Rob

    I'd like to see the executive staff of BP dead on the beach like the turtles with their tounges hanging out. Best thing that could happen.

    May 4, 2010 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  6. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    The recent spill shows the NEED for the preparation and implementation of SAFETY FEATURES. If the emergency valve had done it's job, NONE OF THIS would be an issue. Generally, I'm against offshore drilling, but I don't think that a knee jerk reaction or hysteria over this will help any of us, environmentally, economically or socially.

    What we NEED to do is focus on "disaster preparedness." The ONLY reason that we are having a problem now is because the single most important emergency intervention/precaution didn't work when it was needed.

    "BIG OIL:" spend as much time money and attention on disaster prevention as you do on making money... If the safety device had cost 100 times as much as you spent on it, how much less would THAT have cost your company??? AND, how much better would it have been for the overall environment, the local economy and environment? BETTER, MUCH BETTER!

    May 4, 2010 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  7. foxglove

    Very interesting that GOP was highly critical of Obama for being reluctant about drilling. After they pushed the administration to give in they are now blaming him. These GOP vipers truly have a forked tongue.

    May 4, 2010 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  8. Don of Iowa

    Lets just drill off the shores of Republican states and say the states who drill are responsible for the clean up of their neighboring Democratic states in case of a spill. That should put an end to the constant ranting of the Republican cry of Drill Baby Drill!

    May 4, 2010 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
1 2