Senator Schumer: Lifting Liability Cap Is Crucial

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones Newswires), June 8, 2010

A top Senate Democrat said Tuesday that lifting the liability cap that protects oil companies facing claims of damages from oil spills would be a key part of the congressional response to the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.), a member of the Senate Democratic leadership team, said he preferred removing the cap altogether, but that he would support a move to lift it from the current limit of $75 million to $10 billion.

"That cap has got to go," Schumer told reporters Tuesday. "That's essential to not only ensure that the taxpayers don't pay any money, but also to make sure that future companies are more careful. If you know that you have a cap on your liability, there's not a financial incentive to be careful."

He said a meeting Thursday between Senate leadership and several committee chairmen could determine whether a proposed increase in the liability cap could be added to a wider energy bill or be pursued separately.

Schumer said the focus on U.S. energy policy as a result of the oil spill in the Gulf would make completing energy legislation this year considerably easier.

Since the crisis began more than six weeks ago, thousands of barrels of oil have gushed into the Gulf daily from a damaged oil well. The well was critically damaged when an offshore rig, leased by BP exploded and sank in April.

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