Posted by Matt Dempsey

Inhofe Questions Salazar About Menendez Bill at EPW Hearing


Sen. Inhofe:  Secretary Salazar, in what was going to be my opening statement – yesterday, we talked about the Menendez Bill on the floor of the Senate, and I actually took the position of President Obama in that for us to right now raise these limits, as they are trying to do in Senate Bill…I can’t remember which one it is now…3305, I felt at that time that that’s premature, and as the President stated also that if we do that there are other unintended consequences.  And we don’t know, I mean later on we may have a better idea as to what level of liability should be set in terms of the change.  Now, one of the things that is of interest to me, colloquially, is that…and I’ll read a paragraph out of this letter.  This letter is from the executive vice president of the Alliant insurance group, - we have a similar one from Lloyds of London for you – that “if the liability cap is increased to levels we understand are under consideration, in our view only major oil companies and NOCs,” that’s national oil companies, “will be financially strong enough to continue current exploration and development efforts.”  You know, our analysis of this is that it would be the five majors plus perhaps the NOCs of Venezuela, China.  I guess the question I’d ask of you is – Do you think that’s good?  Do you think that’s healthy?  And have you given any thought to limits of liability at this time, or do you think it’s premature? 

Sec. Salazar: The President has sent a request to the Congress to lift the amounts on the liability limitation.  What that amount should be should take into the consideration the kinds of facts that you are alluding to here, Senator Inhofe.  And so that’s why the Administration will engage with the Congress and will figure out where the appropriate limit should be set.  That is why there was not a specific number sent forth.  Secondly, if I may, there has been a lot of questions about the BP responsibility here and the liability limitation.  In our view, BP has confirmed this in writing – that liability limitation does not apply to this incident because BP has affirmatively stated and has memorialized in writing that they will pay for all damages resulting from this incident.