U.S. Senator David Vitter asked for unanimous consent to pass legislation that protect BP and other oil companies by limiting their financial liability for oil spills and potentially leaves taxpayers on the hook for the cost of cleaning up the damage. Vitter's request was met with objection and did not pass.
On the Senate floor, Vitter claimed that BP has said they are willing to pay more than his bill would require, but the oil corporation has been vague on their financial commitment. Under questioning from Senator Mary Landrieu last week, a BP executive committed to pay all "legitimate claims." Pressed further, the executive said BP would only pay claims it felt were "substantiated," but offered no definition or process to determine which claims meet that definition.
Vitter's bill caps a ‘responsible company's' liability at the total of their last four quarters of profit or $150 million, whichever is higher. But Vitter's bill does not designate BP as the ‘responsible' company, it simply refers back to the Oil Pollution Action of 1990, which places responsibility on the company or companies who hold the lease.
"Make no mistake, David Vitter's bill is a bailout for BP," said Louisiana Democratic Party spokesman Kevin Franck. "We don't need some convoluted equation or any of the legislative mumbo jumbo that comes out of DC to know that BP should pay for the full cost of fixing the leak and cleaning up the spill. Period," Franck said.
Anadarko, one of the smaller corporations involved in the disaster, owned 25 percent of the Deepwater Horizon rig's lease. Even though the corporation is estimated to hold $50 billion in assets, the company posted no profit last year. In fact, Anadarko lost $135 million in the last four quarters. Under Vitter's proposal, Anadarko would face no more than $150 million in liability.[...]
During his first term as a member of the House of Representatives, Vitter introduced a bill to limit the criminal liability of corporations found responsible for oil spills. Vitter's bill would have exempted oil companies from all criminal sanctions except those specifically found in the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.