Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike Lee, the far-right conservative who won the Republican Party’s nomination in Utah, sat down last week Friday with Robert Gehrke of the Salt Lake Tribune for an interview, and during that interview, Lee was asked if he supported efforts, such as the one offered by Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, to raise the liability cap for oil companies from the current $75 million to at least $10 billion, and Lee’s answer was unequivocally, “No.”
Here’s a transcript of the exchange between Lee and his interviewer:
SL TRIBUNE: Currently there’s a cap on liabilities that BP is expected to pay $75 million dollars. There’s legislation that Bill Nelson sponsored to increase that liability to $10 billion dollars. The oil companies say that will put them out of business. Is that something you would be supportive of, increasing that cap on liability for environmental damage?
MIKE LEE: No.
SL TRIBUNE: Why is that?
LEE: This company is reliant, the entire industry, is reliant on the insurance its provided by law. Now had that cap not been in place, we would be facing a completely different question. But you have a set of settled expectations that you give to a business when it decides to make an investment in this. Our country benefits from this type of activity and allows us to produce more oil and allows more of our petro dollars to remain in the United States. We’ve relied on that, and to take that away I think would be a mistake.
SL TRIBUNE: Does that leave taxpayers on the hook for part of the damage?
LEE: Well yea probably does. And the government can look at that and say look, we put this damages cap in place, so we understood what that meant.
SL TRIBUNE: Isn’t that equivalent to a bailout?
LEE: I don’t think, well, I don’t think that’s equivalent to a bailout. I think that’s the government saying there’s some things its going to — if you look at the Outer Continental Shelf, something over which the United States has jurisdiction, and the United State wants to clean that up, then it’s free to do so. There’s nothing in that liability cap that requires the Federal government to do it. Well I’m not sure that necessarily means the taxpayers will end up paying the bill. It maybe the industry generally will just contribute to it. In fact I would expect other people involved in offshore drilling will have a part of the clean up because they would want to to show this can be done safely and when disasters do happen it can be cleaned up.
Watch the exchange for yourself:
What I’d like to know is how leaving U.S. taxpayers on the hook for cleanups following an oil spill or some other type of oil-related accident isn’t tantamount to a taxpayer bailout of companies like BP or Exxon. Companies that are responsible for incidents like the current Gulf oil spill should be held fully accountable, not just partially accountable, and that’s why increasing the liability cap is a good idea, because American taxpayers shouldn’t be left to foot the bill for an expensive environmental cleanup caused by a private corporation like BP or Exxon.