Deepwater Disaster: Hoping for Best, Preparing for Worst
From Senator Bill Nelson May 5, 2010
During a meeting I just had with the CEO of BP I put a number of questions to Tony Hayward directly and bluntly:
Any idea when you’re really going to be able to cap this well?
Can you guarantee the Gulf of Mexico states that this will be capped by the start of hurricane season June 1?
What reassurances can you give us this kind of thing won’t happen at another rig tomorrow?
Why shouldn’t we stop new deepwater drilling at least until you’ve demonstrated a reliable backup system for capping the wells?
Do you feel BP is liable for all the economic damages – or, can we expect legal battles between BP, Transocean and the manufacturers of the blowout prevention device?
While Mr. Hayward was forthright – I was not satisfied with all the answers he gave.
He conceded that damages from this spill will exceed the $75 million cap in current law. And he left open the strong possibility there will be legal disputes over who is responsible.
Is it BP? Transocean? The manufacturer of the blowout prevention device? Halliburton?
This is why I havefiled legislationto make sure the oil company and others aren’t off the hook on economic damages resulting from this spill. My bill would raise a responsible party’s liability cap for economic damages (such as lost business revenues from fishing and tourism, natural resources damages or lost local tax revenues) from $75 million to $10 billion.
Since I filed this bill, even the White House has said we need to raise the cap.
Meantime, we’re still facing the immediate priority of stopping this underwater volcano. The oil spill off the coast of Louisiana continues to grow unabated, threatening the Gulf Coast. Worst case scenario has the oil getting caught in the “loop” current down around the Florida Keys and impacting Florida’s South Atlantic Coast as well.
It’s important that we also find out if this accident could have been prevented by tougher federal regulations.
Toward this end, I have asked the inspector general (IG) of the Interior Department to determine whether the oil and gas industry exerted undue influence over regulators. You might recall that two years ago, the Interior’s IG found employees in the government’s oil-lease royalty office had inappropriate relationships with energy company employees, accepted lavish gifts and rigged contracts.
While we hope for the best but prepare for the worst, my office has received numerous calls and e-mails from folks in Florida. We’re in touch not only with Interior and drilling officials, but also the Coast Guard, National Guard and the military. Here is a list of phone numbers and websites that you may find useful.