Lincoln backs $20 billion BP fund | Arkansas Blog

Monday, June 14, 2010

Lincoln backs $20 billion BP fund

Posted By on Mon, Jun 14, 2010 at 12:17 PM

Sen. Blanche Lincoln has joined other Senate Democrats in a letter to BP asking it to set aside $20 billion in a fund for cleanup and economic damages from the Gulf oil disaster.

Two questions:

1) Is $20 billion enough?

2) What does Rep. John Boozman, Lincoln's opponent in November, think about it? Boozman's office responded to questions with a reference to a statement he issued earlier this month in which he indicated support for an unspecified increase in the current $75 million liability cap. His statement does not address the Senate proposal or the question of whether there should be no cap at all on damages.

UPDATE: Boozman, following the Huckabee model (he does employ one, after all) doesn't favor me with statements, but issued one later to Roby Brock. It's non-specific, too.

LINCOLN NEWS RELEASE

Washington—U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) today, along with other Senate Democrats, sent a letter to BP CEO Tony Hayward calling on the company to set aside $20 billion in a special account to be used to pay for economic damages and clean-up costs of the Gulf Coast oil spill. In the letter, the Senators cite the lessons of history from past spills and the need to ensure financial security for those persons and industries whose way of life have been harmed. The Senators requested a response to this letter no later than Friday, June 18 in light of the urgency of the matter.

“The oil spill in the Gulf is taking a dramatic emotional and economic toll on the people of the region,” Lincoln said. “BP will be held accountable to those whose lives and livelihoods have been seriously impacted by this disaster. As a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, I will continue to use my oversight role to ensure that BP is taking all appropriate steps to clean up this mess and compensate the individuals and families who are suffering as a result of the oil spill. While the government has certainly been engaged in operations on the Gulf and in pushing BP to move quickly and efficiently, the bill for this clean up will not fall on the American taxpayers.”

Key Excerpts of the Letter:

“We are writing to express our profound concern over the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster and our deep regret for the severe consequences the continued outflow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico is having on our nation and the way of life for millions of Americans. This tragedy has already taken the lives of 11 men, wounded 17 others, and caused billions of dollars in damages.”
“While we are pleased that BP has admitted liability for these damages and vowed to provide full remuneration for economic losses and clean-up costs, history has taught us that corporations often fail to live up to their initial promises.”
“Although legislative action is forthcoming, the damages are immediate. In order to ensure BP fully and quickly covers the costs of this disaster, we are calling on BP to immediately establish a special account of $20 billion, administered by an independent trustee, to be used for payment of economic damages and clean-up costs. Establishment of this account would serve as an act of good faith and as a first step towards ensuring that there will be no delay in payments or attempt to evade responsibility for damages.”
Full Text of the Letter:

June 14, 2010

Mr. Tony Hayward
Group Chief Executive, BP p.l.c
c/o BP America Inc.
4101 Winfield Road
Warrenville, IL 60555

Dear Mr. Hayward:

We are writing to express our profound concern over the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster and our deep regret for the severe consequences the continued outflow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico is having on our nation and the way of life for millions of Americans. This tragedy has already taken the lives of 11 men, injured 17 others, and caused billions of dollars in damages. The oil slick resulting from the spill stretches across 2,500 square miles and has damaged miles of environmentally sensitive beaches and marshes stretching across four states. Although this disaster continues to unfold, it is already very clear we are facing a catastrophe of historic proportions that will take decades to fully rectify.

The damages caused by your company are far reaching. While much is already visible today, history informs us that the full extent of the destruction may not be discovered for months or even years. For example, it is already evident that fishermen, shrimpers, the tourist industry, and the secondary industries that support them will sustain billions of dollars in losses. It is also possible that marine and wildlife habitats will be destroyed, estuaries and wetlands will be decimated, and bird, fish, and animal populations will be devastated.

While we are pleased that BP has admitted liability for such damages and vowed to provide full remuneration for economic losses and clean-up costs, history has taught us that corporations often fail to live up to their initial promises. After the Exxon Valdez tanker spilled more than 11 million gallons of oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound, damages totaled more than $7 billion; although Exxon continued making massive profits after the accident, it fought liability at every step and ultimately paid far less than the billions of dollars worth of damages it had caused many, many years later.

Congress is currently gathering information and holding hearings in order to develop evidence-based legislative solutions to address the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Although legislative action is forthcoming, the damages are immediate. In order to ensure BP fully and quickly covers the costs of this disaster, we are calling on BP to immediately establish a special account of $20 billion, administered by an independent trustee, to be used for payment of economic damages and clean-up costs. Establishment of this account would serve as an act of good faith and as a first step towards ensuring that there will be no delay in payments or attempt to evade responsibility for damages. Although creating this account at this level in no way limits BP’s liability, we believe it will do more to improve BP’s public image than the costly public relations campaign your company has launched.

We appreciate your interest in fully and quickly reimbursing those who have been injured by your actions. We believe the establishment of the $20 billion account to compensate victims and provide for clean-up is a useful first step for demonstrating that BP intends to meet its commitments. In light of the urgency of this matter we ask the courtesy of your response no later than June 18, 2010.

Sincerely,

BOOZMAN STATEMENT

“Our response to this crisis must be an American response, not a Democrat or Republican response, and we must work together to come up with a viable solution that helps meet the needs of the victims of this tragedy,” Boozman said. “As I stated on June 9, ‘to pass the cost of this tragic incident to American taxpayers is unfair and unreasonable. The responsible parties must be held accountable and should bear the financial burden of cleaning up oil spills.’”

“There will be an appropriate discussion about the best mechanism through which BP must pay all clean-up costs. I believe Congress should codify BP’s verbal commitments to pay all costs and damages. The creation of some kind of special account within BP to pay claims also makes sense to me, but I need to review the details of any specific proposal to make sure Congress does not cause unnecessary economic hardship on the Gulf Coast.”

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