After Saying Senate Should Prepare For Other Spills, Murkowski Votes Against Increasing Big Oil’s Liability

Murkowskiprotest As the ongoing oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico continues to ravage the southeastern coast of the United States, Congress is working on federal reforms that would decrease the likelihood of future disasters and force oil companies to take more responsibility for the financial cost of such catastrophes.

One senator who claims to be in support of such reforms is Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Following the spill, she introduced legislation that would increase the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, a special fund paid for by a pennies-per-barrel fee that oil companies pay into to cleanup potential spills, up to $10 billion — an increase from the $1.6 billion currently in it. In a statement accompanying the introduction of her legislation, Murkowski claimed the amendment is “one of several steps” Congress should take to make sure we’re “prepared to respond adequately in the unlikely event of future spills”:

In 2005, Sen. Murkowski proposed increasing the industry per-barrel fee that supports the liability fund by 60 percent. Her new amendment make sure the fund would not be depleted by a single catastrophic spill.

“While this won’t resolve all of the potential issues arising from the Deepwater Horizon accident, it’s one of several steps the Senate should take to see that we’re prepared to respond adequately in the unlikely event of future spills,” Sen. Murkowski said.

This afternoon, the Senate debated legislation introduced by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) that would’ve increased the maximum liability oil companies could have for oil spills from $75 million to $10 billion. Despite her high-minded rhetoric about the steps Congress needs to take to respond to future spills, Murkowski objected to Menendez’s requested voice vote, stopping his legislation from going forward:

Alaska’s senior senator blocked legislation Thursday that would have dramatically increased liability caps on oil companies, in the wake of one of the industry’s biggest disasters.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) objected to a voice vote request by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) on the bill, which would have spiked the maximum liability for oil companies after an oil spill from $75 million to $10 billion. The legislation has significant support from Democrats, and the White House has indicated it backs an increase in liability caps.

Following the failure of his bill to come up for a vote, Menendez responded, “It’s straightforward, it’s common sense. Either you want to fully protect the small businesses, individuals and communities devastated by a man-made disaster — this is not a natural disaster; this is a man-made disaster — or you want to protect multibillion-dollar oil companies from being held fully accountable. Apparently there are some in the Senate who prefer to protect the oil companies.”