Oil spill cap at issue in Missouri Senate race

Thursday, May 20, 2010 | 6:13 p.m. CDT; updated 1:01 p.m. CDT, Thursday, June 10, 2010

JEFFERSON CITY — Republican U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt filed legislation Thursday that could force oil companies to cover a greater portion of the cleanup costs of a spill.

But Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan said Blunt's proposal doesn't go far enough and could still leave taxpayers on the hook for a portion of the tab.

Blunt and Carnahan are their parties' leading contenders this year for the U.S. Senate seat in Missouri being vacated by Republican Kit Bond.

Carnahan said two weeks ago that she thinks oil producer BP should be held responsible for the entire cost of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Federal law caps liability for oil spills at $75 million.

Blunt filed legislation Thursday that would raise the liability cap for an offshore, deep-water oil rig spill to $150 million or an amount equal to the last four quarters of the company's profits, whichever is greater. The bill also raises liability caps for other types of oil spills.

Blunt spokeswoman Burson Snyder estimated the legislation could make BP liable for about $20 billion based on the company's recent profits. She said the intent is for the legislation to apply retroactively to the spill that BP is still struggling to stop.

"An environmental tragedy quickly becomes a fiscal tragedy in cases like we've seen in the Gulf of Mexico over the last month," Blunt said in a written statement. "Responsible parties should be held fully accountable, and taxpayers should not be left paying a nickel of the cost of cleaning up oil spills."

It could be some time before the full cleanup costs are known for the gulf spill because oil is still flowing from a hole in the ocean floor.

A Carnahan campaign spokesman said Blunt's legislation fails to ensure that taxpayers won't have to pay for part of the cleanup because it still limits liability.

"From day one, Robin has been clear that Missouri taxpayers should not be on the hook for big oil's spill in the Gulf," said Carnahan spokesman Linden Zakula.


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