As the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico grows and makes it way toward the coast, attention has turned to the question of who will pay for the clean-up and any possible damages to our natural habitats, businesses, and individuals who call this region home.
So let’s be clear about a few things: BP is responsible for -- and will be held accountable for – all of the very significant clean-up and containment costs. They will pay for the mess they’ve made.
Beyond clean-up and containment, BP must be held responsible for the damages this spill causes. To help make sure of that, the Administration – in the context of a comprehensive energy bill which would help move us to a clean energy future -- strongly supports efforts on Capitol Hill to raise the Oil Pollution Act damages cap significantly above $75 million.
Currently, under the Oil Pollution Act, if BP is found to be grossly negligent or to have engaged in willful misconduct or conduct in violation of federal regulations, then there is no cap under this specific law for damages. Simply put, the $75 million cap on damages under the Oil Pollution Act would not apply under these circumstances.
Right now, this crisis is still very much unfolding so it will take time to determine what caused this spill and the extent of the damage that can be claimed under this one law. Changing the Oil Pollution Act so that its cap does not limit our ability to collect damages would increase our chances of collecting adequate compensation. In addition, we are examining what fines or damages BP could be liable for under additional applicable federal and state laws.
The bottom line is that the Administration will aggressively pursue compensation from BP for any damages from this spill.
Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director