Saturday, May 15, 2010

AK Senator Opposes Increases in Oil Company Liabilities

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), a longtime advocate of offshore drilling, became the face of opposition to Congressional efforts at holding oil companies accountable for their spills after blocking a bill on Thursday. The Alaskan Senator blocked a voice vote on a bill by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) that would have dramatically raised the cap on liabilities for oil companies from $75 million, likely a small fraction of the damage caused by the BP disaster, to $10 billion. Meanwhile, the White House, who backs the bill, appears to have a strong hand politically. 42 percent of Americans favor President Obama's handling of the gulf spill, versus 33 percent who disapprove and 21 percent who are neutral, a new AP-GfK poll reports.

Alaska’s senior senator blocked legislation Thursday that would have dramatically increased liability caps on oil companies, in the wake of one of the industry’s biggest disasters.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) objected to a voice vote request by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) on the bill, which would have spiked the maximum liability for oil companies after an oil spill from $75 million to $10 billion. The legislation has significant support from Democrats, and the White House has indicated it backs an increase in liability caps.

But Murkowski said the legislation is “not where we need to be right now” and would unfairly advantage large oil companies by pricing the small companies out of the market. Murkowski did signal that she would be open to "look at the liability cap and consider raising it.” Just not at this moment.

Menendez, speaking to reporters after the bill was halted on the Senate floor, said the opposition indicates that Republicans are on the side of the oil companies, not the American people. There had been no formal floor debate or roll call vote requested on the legislation.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) called the current $75 million liability a “spit in the ocean” for oil disasters and lawmakers.

“You want to make the money? Then pay the bills that come with the kind of devastation that they brought to our coast, our communities, our working people, and let them take some of the money that they’ve made in that quarter and put it up and pay the bills,” Lautenberg said.

The oil industry is vehemently opposed to this legislation. The American Petroleum Institute, in a study released Thursday, said the proposal would result in a shortage of insurance coverage or skyrocketing premiums. Costs for exploring and producing oil would jump 25 percent, the API said, and the proposal “would threaten the viability of deep-water operations, significantly reduce U.S. domestic oil production and harm U.S. energy security.”

In the wake of one of the industry’s biggest disasters, I can't believe Senator Murkowski doesn't remember the spill that affected her state and the fact that it took 20 years to settle, with many private citizens never recouping their losses. I guess I'll do some research to see how much the oil companies contribute to Sen. Murkowski and any other information that would help me understand her objections to the legislation. I guess she's still chanting "Drill, Baby, Drill" along with Aunt Sarah (Palin) and Uncle Bubba (John McCain),

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