Congress Needs to Pass Get-Tough Legislation to Reform Big Oil


Big, important newspapers are supposed to publish big, important editorials. And that’s just what we have from the Miami Herald as it calls for passage of a federal bill that would “get tough” on Big Oil – and maybe even tighten the loose regulations that no doubt contributed to the BP oil spill.

The paper’s opinion piece cites recent findings that outline the series of mistakes leading up to the disaster. Then, it rightly asserts that:

… the preliminary findings should be enough to push the U.S. Senate into approving legislation that will impose many reforms on both the oil industry and the government agencies that regulate it. The U.S. House passed the bill this year but the Senate delayed it, not all that surprisingly. Only two Republicans voted for the House bill, which likely means its only chance of passing the Senate is if a vote is set during the lame-duck session. If it fails in the Senate this year the whole process will have to start from scratch again.

Given the recent GOP gains in the House – and the fact that only two Republicans supported reform before – it means the upcoming lame-duck congressional session is the last best hope for the Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Company Accountability Act.

The Herald gets to the point on why the bill is important: “And it should be passed. For starters it would lift the liability cap on oil companies that cause spills in U.S. waters. In 1990, lawmakers capped liability at $75 million – way too low. Even BP acknowledged as much when it set up a $20 billion compensation fund.”

I have my doubts that this legislation will pass, but it’s important to remember that the House acted swiftly, and the Senate less so. It reminds us that the laugh-out-loud $75 million cap is still in place and no major legislation has passed to improve the drilling situation. The Act, by the way, would also direct fines collected from the three responsible companies to be spent in the Gulf states.

Real the Herald’s opinion here:

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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