Pelosi: Oil Companies Should Write Blank Check for Spills

Posted June 11, 2010 at 12:43pm

Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday said companies responsible for oil spills like the ongoing gusher in the Gulf of Mexico should face an unlimited tab to cover the cost of cleanup and damages.

Under current law, BP faces a $75 million cap on the cost of the cleanup as long as there is no negligence found to be involved in the disaster surrounding the explosion of its Deepwater Horizon rig. But the company is sure to face a much steeper bill. The California Democrat said while she initially supported lifting the cap to $10 billion, she has revised her opinion as the spill has worsened.

“Let me be very clear: BP is responsible for the cleanup,” the top House Democrat told reporters. “With or without negligence, I don’t think there should be a cap. … Why should there be a cap?”

House Democrats are preparing a raft of legislation to crack down on the oil and gas sector in the wake of the spill, including measures to overhaul the federal agency that oversees the industry, expand liability for workers and tighten leasing standards. Pelosi said no decision has been made yet on bundling those measures, adding that leaders would likely move them as they are ready.

She leveled harsh words at the oil giant responsible for the spill, saying BP should suspend its dividend payments to shareholders until it has compensated Gulf Coast families affected by the disaster. “I’m saying they should not be paying dividends until they make these people whole and make a better effort to do it in a timely fashion,” Pelosi said, adding that she respects “their fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders, but they also, first and foremost, have a responsibility to pay their bills. These are their bills.”

And she continued her ridicule of BP for its public accounting of the spill — and their earlier claims that they had the technology to prevent such an event. “They either didn’t know what they were doing or didn’t care they didn’t know what they were doing but represented that the technology was better than it was,” she said.

“When they start telling you to cut your hair and send golf balls and diapers for the cleanup, you know that’s not the technology of the future, unless you’re changing diapers, getting a haircut or playing golf,” she added.