June 8th, 2010
01:05 PM ET
11 years ago

Key senators call for lifting of oil liability caps


Workers cleared a Pensacola, Florida beach Monday as oil residue washed ashore . (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Washington (CNN) - Top Senate Democrats called Tuesday for a sweeping overhaul of the nation's corporate liability laws in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, arguing that companies currently have little incentive to make safety and environmental concerns a top priority.

Specifically, the senators blasted a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that cut the amount of punitive damages a jury awarded to victims of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill by $2 billion. They also criticized the 1990 Oil Pollution Act, which would potentially limit BP's liability for economic damages incurred by the Gulf spill to $75 million. Critics note that the amount is a small fraction of the cost a major oil spill like the Gulf disaster will inflict on communities.

At the same time, the senators sharply questioned an 1851 law limiting shipowners' post-accident liability to the value of a sunken vessel. Rig owner Transocean used the law in the days immediately following the April 20 explosion to attempt to limit its liability to $26 million.

The various measures were the focus of what became a heated hearing conducted by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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Filed under: Energy
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Mark from Louisiana

    Looks like Congress has been caught with it's pants down. We pay them enough to make sure that laws are current and enforceable .
    I guess all the money big oil pours into BOTH parties has worked.

    June 8, 2010 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  2. Get A Grip

    Oh, you can bet those trial lawyers are slobbering all over themselves with this one.

    June 8, 2010 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  3. Ted

    Typical Republican sell out to big oil. Thanks to Bush SR, Bush JR and Darth Cheney, we have the biggest oil spill ever. I think the three amigos shoudl be subpoenaed for waterboarding and tar ball/oilslick cleanup. They and their big oil friends. Just rank stupidity by sellingout to big oil that makes billions of dollars of profit everyyear but has no idea how to stop spills or examine the potential risks of spills and WE the TAXPAYER SUBSIDIZE THESE INCOMPETENT FOOLS.

    Obama is right – we need to kick big oil's ass. They deserve it .

    June 8, 2010 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  4. Real World Soldier

    I am sure the Republican hypocrites will be fighting this all the way. They preach about less government and reduce spending in one hand, while the other hand is criticizing the response of the government and lack of funds being allocated for the oil disaster.

    June 8, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  5. one voice

    There should be NO CAP. PERIOD

    June 8, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  6. Albert

    What? Make corporations pay for their bad deeds? No! Never! It is not enough that rich stock holdrs have no liability for the corporation's bad deeds, they wanrt tax payers to pay for the clean-up and not their corporation. Ronald Reagan will be rolling in his grave if the GOP fails to proterct the rich and stop this attempt to regulate global corporations by making them pay when they do wrong.

    June 8, 2010 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  7. ronvan

    These laws need to be addressed immediately, and better include a "grandfather" clause. If they don't then many, many, people are going to suffer while BP's attornies drag claims on for years. I would seize ALL of BP's assets right now! We can return any unused monies once ALL clean up is done!

    June 8, 2010 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  8. Independent One

    EVERY Senator should be out there with a tool in their hands helping to clean up the mess

    June 8, 2010 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  9. mike

    I won't be surprise if no republican will go along with this but as long
    as the voters continue to vote for these idiots that companies like BP
    want in office there will always problems because of no oversight
    from the government look at the supreme court filled with republican
    cronies that are in favor of big oil maybe just maybe the voters in
    the gulf will wake and say no to big oil because if they don't no one
    will be vacationing there Costa Rica is looking much better to me

    June 8, 2010 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  10. Tom from Ohio

    How about we follow the trail back to find which de-regulating Republican was in bed with BP to ease restrictions!!

    June 8, 2010 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  11. Linda

    No more drilling! I cannot believe I read that Obama is going to allow drilling to start and expand again! This disaster may be the end of the oceans as we know them! And it still has not stopped. If the Senate does not take away these ridiculous protections for oil profits, the should all be kicked out of the Senate.
    This is not about money – it is about survival! BP has raped our oil and nation for years- raking in billions and billions without even being asked if they had a plan to repair such a leak. That is just how we let health insurance companies rape citizens and then force them off of insurance if they get seriously ill. What has happened to America? We seem to only care about corporate profits, not the people and it has to change, now.

    June 8, 2010 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
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