Cantwell Presses BP to Cover All Costs of Oil Spill

BP agrees to cover all 'legitimate claims,' including fishing industry losses, shipping impacts, business lost to tourism, recovery of depleted fisheries, impacts to pristine beaches

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell today pressed a top BP official to commit to covering all the cleanup and damages costs of the catastrophic oil spill off the coast of Louisiana. Cantwell told BP President Lamar McKay at a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that people were depending on the oil company to specifically enumerate which damages from the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill they will pay for.  
“It literally was just last year that the last parts of the Exxon Valdez clean up were settled,” said Cantwell. “It was a 20 year process, it went all the way to the Supreme Court. So Mr. McKay, are you saying you’re going to avoid that by paying legitimate claims in advance? I know you can’t stop anyone from suing you, but are you going to pay legitimate claims in advance of any court process?”
McKay replied that BP is paying legitimate claims.
“Obviously we can’t keep from being sued, but yes we have said exactly what we mean. We’re going to pay legitimate claims,” McKay said.
Cantwell pressed BP on whether legitimate claims would include long-term losses to the fishing industry, business lost to tourism; lost tax revenue to state and local governments; shipping impacts; impacts on further drilling operations; and impacts on the Gulf’s pristine beaches. 
You’re stepping up today at a hearing with probably the best advice money can buy behind you, with PR and legal teams, and I’m sure they’re saying ‘Let’s say that we’re going to pay,’ “ said Cantwell. “So I want to make sure that we really understand what you’re saying you’re really going to be committed to today. Because the long term impacts of this are going to be for 20 years and we cannot sustain this kind of behavior or cost. And I want to make sure that we’re getting full answers to the coverage that you are really signing up for today.”
“We are trying to be extremely responsive, expeditious, meet every responsibility we have as a responsible party and that means pay all legitimate claims,” said McKay. “So that is our intent. I can’t speculate on every case, but I can tell you this is not about legal words, this is about getting it done and getting it done right.” 
Cantwell also asked the committee to reconsider legislation that included a further opening up of the Gulf. The American Clean Energy Leadership Act (ACELA) of 2009, which passed the Energy and Natural Resources Committee last June, would open portions of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, including areas as close as 10 miles off of Destin, Florida, to oil and gas leasing.
Watch Cantwell at today’s hearing here.
Cantwell, who chairs the Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard Subcommittee, has brought to light longstanding problems with blowout preventers, the underwater devices designed to prevent leaks from offshore oil wells. A critical failure of a preventer beneath BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig is believed partly responsible for the massive spill. Two weeks ago Cantwell unearthed a report by Mineral Management Services (MMS) which documented 117 failures in a two-year period more than a decade ago. She also uncovered technical reports by oil industry officials – including officers of BP and Transocean, the firm that ran the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded and sank on April 20 – that make clear that industry was well aware of problems with blowout preventers.
Cantwell has brought to light the following documents demonstrating industry knowledge of blowout preventers failures:  
·         A 1999 MMS study found 117 blowout preventer failures in deep-water Gulf of Mexico oil rigs from 1997 to 1998.
·         A 2004 MMS study found that only 50 percent of tested blowout preventer shear rams were successful in cutting through the pipe at maximum rated depths.
For more information about industry reports, call the press office at 202-224-8277.
The hearings will continue next week to further investigate the cause of the disaster at which Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will testify and the Senate Commerce Committee will look at related issues in its jurisdiction. Cantwell intends to continue directly addressing the questions posed by this spill and is developing legislation focused specifically on addressing vulnerabilities in the oil rig blowout preventers.