Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Top Environment Foe in Congress Takes the Point Blocking Bill to Raise Liability Cap As Outrages Mount

After the withering criticism faced by Senator Lisa Murkowski (that will not soon go away), as she stepped up to block a bill that would lift the oil industry's liability for spills from $75 million to $10 billion, notorious global warming denier and top industry shill James Inhofe stepped into the breach to replace her. Inhofe took a slightly different tack. Not only did he repeat the absurd argument that limiting Big Oil's liability was to help so-called “independents,” i.e., you can’t afford the bill, don’t worry, the taxpayers will pay the cost for these companies’ reckless behavior.

But then Inhofe blatantly misrepresented what President Obama said by suggesting that the President opposes the bill because the appropriate cap has yet to be determined. Watch Inhofe try to portray his and Murkowski's refusal to allow the legislation to be voted on as sanctioned by President Obama:

Inhofe added:
“I don't very often agree with President Obama. Right now he is unsure what that level should be, I'm unsure what that level should be," Inhofe said. "Maybe it should be the level we're talking about right now, and it may end up there, we don't know that.”
And the President’s response:
“I am disappointed that an effort to ensure that oil companies pay fully for disasters they cause has stalled in the United States Senate on a partisan basis. This maneuver threatens to leave taxpayers, rather than the oil companies, on the hook for future disasters like the BP oil spill. I urge the Senate Republicans to stop playing special interest politics and join in a bipartisan effort to protect taxpayers and demand accountability from the oil companies.”
Meanwhile, as the owner of the rig, Transocean, sought to limit its liability in a Texas court to $27 million, it was making a $1 billion stock dividend distribution to shareholders. The outrages mount. The Gulf oil spill is already a distressing global phenomenon. The only difference is that the industry's criminality was out of sight, out of mind for most Americans. Until now. As was noted in this blog early into the crisis, independent analysts had already determined the oil spill was bigger than the Exxon Valdez, and the dispersant Corexit (used in the Exxon spill) has serious toxicity to humans and wildlife. BP is using it in the Gulf spill on a widespread and unprecedented basis, despite the existence of other, more effective and less toxic dispersants. Corexit is banned in the UK. In hearings today, Democrats noted that BP has a contractual relationship with the manufacturer of Corexit, suggesting that its use was determined by factors other than which dispersant is safer, most effective, and less toxic. The outrages mount.

A CBS News crew was told to turn around threat of arrest by the Coast Guard -- “It’s BP’s rules, not ours” -- as they tried to film the extent of the encroaching spill:

Watch CBS News Videos Online

The outrages mount. BP CEO Tony Hayward dismissed the oil spill as “relatively tiny compared to the very big ocean.” Hayward’s glib attitude is reminiscent of a warlord or colonial master of his domain. The BP oil spill contaminating our waters and beaches and wildlife and economy is United States property under lease to a foreign corporation. Those waters are United States sovereign territory, not under the jurisdiction or “rules” of BP or any other corporation. And BP has told local fishermen working on the oil cleanup to forgo safety precautions, despite air quality exceeding safe levels. I’m reminded of an old but ever so relevant Buffalo Springfield song:
There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

I think it's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
The outrages mount.

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