You are here

Ensuring Tools to Respond to the BP Oil Spill

Nearly, a decade of former oil executives in the Bush Administration working for Big Oil instead of the American people paved the way for the worst environmental disaster in American history. Former Vice President Cheney was CEO of Halliburton--one of the companies actually involved in this oil spill--and oversaw an energy policy developed with oil lobbyists in secret. Oversight and ethical failures, as well as incompetence, are well documented at the agency that oversaw drilling for the Bush administration. 

    On June 10th, the House passed legislation (S. 3473) to permit the Coast Guard to obtain one or more advances from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to underwrite federal response activities to the BP/Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Under current law, the Coast Guard can only draw up to $100 million from the fund to finance emergency response efforts after an accident and that money is about to run out.

        BP is ultimately responsible for paying for the disaster cleanup and will be held fully accountable for restoring this funding, but Congress must act today to ensure the Coast Guard and other response agencies have what they need now to get the job done in the Gulf of Mexico.

          On June 4, Homeland Security sent a letter on the 'urgent need to continue the response to the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill… funding available in the Emergency Fund will be insufficient to sustain the Federal response operations within two weeks. At that point, the Federal On-Scene Coordinator would not be able to commit sufficient funds to the agencies involved in the Federal response.'

            On June 9, the Senate unanimously passed the bill.

              The trust fund, created by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, is funded by an 8-cent tax on each barrel of oil and is designed to pay for cleanup and economic damages not covered by the responsible parties. Currently, the trust fund has a balance of roughly $1.6 billion. The law also limits the fund payout for a single spill to $1 billion. The American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act moving through Congress will raise the fee oil companies pay per barrel and increase the fund payout.

              This bill is another in a series of steps to address the worst oil spill in the nation's history. Leaders in Congress have launched a full inquiry. Getting answers from BP, Transocean and Halliburton is critical and will focus on: the cause of accident, the plan to stop the leak and ensuring cleanup and economic assistance efforts are carried out to protect coastal communities. We are working to make the oil industry pay to ensure sufficient funds to clean up the BP oil spill, and to lift the liability caps limiting economic damages to be paid by responsible oil companies. And more must and will be done.

              Read the bill»