WASHINGTON – Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, highlighted a recently released GAO report, which examines the oil spill liability trust fund and what is being done to mitigate risks and exposures to the fund and the federal government as a result of the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April. Sen. Carper was the original Congressional requestor of the study:
"Although the BP/Deepwater Horizon well has been sealed and the oil clean-up process continues to progress, the federal government must continue to be vigilant in ensuring that every dime spent by taxpayers is reimbursed by those responsible. The federal government's costs continue to mount in the Gulf and soon Congress will have to do something about the $1 billion per incident expense cap currently on the books. The Government Accountability Office's recommendation to Congress to use a more elastic cap for the oil spill liability trust fund seems to be a workable, common sense approach that best protects the taxpayers and I look forward to working with my colleagues on a legislative option that follows this model.
"As history has shown us, it is unlikely that the current cap of $1 billion will sustain the eventual cost of this monumental clean-up and recovery effort. So far, BP has stayed true to its promise – and obligation – and has reimbursed American taxpayers for the damages caused by the spill. Unfortunately, the current cap will likely tie the government's hands in continuing to fund ongoing cleanup costs and there is no guarantee that another, arbitrary cap will suffice.
"I also find it troubling that the response and reimbursement process has been guided by outdated and incomplete forms developed nearly 15 years ago. The manual, published by the Coast Guard's National Pollution Funds Center, must be updated immediately to reflect not only the correct Department that the Center has been housed in for nearly 10 years, but also the significant lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon tragedy.
"This calamity has revealed a number of trap doors in our culture of oil dependence. If our nation continues down this path, with a heavy reliance on domestic drilling, these spills will only get worse. This country must fight its addiction to fossil fuels by investing in energy efficiency and clean, renewable sources of energy, like wind, solar and nuclear.
"My subcommittee will continue to monitor the oil spill claims process and hold the responsible parties accountable, so that the American taxpayer isn't left picking up the tab for one of the greatest environment disasters in our country's history."
Background on the GAO report:
In their report, GAO recommends that Congress consider "amending OPA or enacting new legislation to eliminate the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund's $1 billion per incident expenditure cap to the extent it does not take into account reimbursements from Responsible Parties. In this regard, Congress may want to consider setting a Fund cap associated with an incident based upon net expenditures (expenditures less reimbursements)."