406 Dirksen EPW Hearing Room
James M. Inhofe
In other words, under this approach, the President could make distinctions between different wells and the different circumstances attendant to each—and then set the liability caps accordingly. This is a reasonable approach that allows for careful deliberation, one that balances the need for safety, environmental protection, domestic energy production, and jobs.
I should note that I was even willing to consider unlimited liability in specific cases—that is, if the President believed the risks of a specific project were too high, then a lessee would have to operate without a cap. So we weren’t far apart. Yet, at least at this point, there’s no desire on the other side to reach a compromise—I fear they may want a political issue, not a practical solution. I suppose it was paramount that today’s outcome conform to the talking point that one party stands with Big Oil while the other stands with “the people.”
But the irony is that if the Boxer substitute amendments become law, drilling in the Gulf will dry up, and the only players left standing will be BP and China’s National Offshore Oil Corporation. In other words, Big Oil.
Let’s set aside the liability caps for a moment: I can assure you that Boxer substitute #2, by itself, will push smaller producers out of the Gulf, as it creates so many hurdles, so many unreasonable obstacles, that safety—the ostensible purpose behind this amendment—won’t be an issue, because drilling will be so costly that few will be able to afford it. So who ultimately benefits? That’s right, Big Oil.
Again, let it be known for the record that my colleagues and I sought bipartisan compromise. We wanted the same outcome as in 1990, when OPA passed unanimously after Exxon Valdez. I thought the same could happen here. But now 1990 seems like eons ago.