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Gulf oil spill: Senators seek to raise liability cap

May 3, 2010 |  2:11 pm

A group of Democratic senators announced Monday that they were seeking to increase the cap for company liability in connection with damages from oil spills, a move prompted by the massive slick working its way across the Gulf of Mexico.

Sens. Robert Menendez and Frank R. Lautenberg, both of New Jersey, and Bill Nelson, of Florida, introduced legislation to raise the cap, which they said was $75 million on any company’s liability for economic damages. In a statement, the trio said the new legislation would raise the cap to $10 billion.

BP announced Monday morning that it accepted responsibility for the cleanup costs from its oil well shaft, which is spewing an estimated 5,000 barrels of oil into the gulf every day. Others say the spill rate is much higher.

“BP says it’ll pay for this mess. Baloney. They’re not going to want to pay any more than what the law says they have to, which is why we can’t let them off the hook,” Nelson said.

Cleanup of the spill is expected to run into the billions of dollars and it is too soon to estimate what will be the tab on additional losses from lost income from harmed fisheries and any environmental damage.

According to the senators, the current law says that when the current cap is reached, an aggrieved party can make a claim to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which is projected to have $1.6 billion in the current fiscal year. However, the fund, which gets its money from an 8-cent tax for every barrel of produced or imported oil, has a $1 billion-per-incident cap.

-- Michael Muskal

Twittrer.com/LATimesmuskal
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