Washington, DC - Today, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), approved S. 3305, the Big Oil Bailout Prevention Liability Act of 2010, legislation introduced by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) to lift the cap on liability for damages from oil spills. The bill passed the Committee by voice vote with an amendment, offered by Senator Boxer, to eliminate the cap on liability for responsible parties at an offshore facility, as well as amendments to improve oil spill contingency plans and improve the claims process. The Menendez bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Senator Boxer said: "The catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico makes it clear that the companies responsible must be held fully accountable for the damages they cause to the economy and the environment. In California, more than 300,000 jobs and $23 billion in economic activity depend on our beautiful coastline, and I am committed to ensuring that polluters pay for all of the damage from an oil spill."

In addition to the Menendez bill on oil spill liability, the Environment and Public Works Committee approved measures to support research and development of new technologies to clean up oil spills, and to help restore the resources of the Gulf of Mexico. The legislation passed by voice vote and now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

S. 3305, The Big Oil Bailout Prevention Liability Act of 2010
Under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA), liability for damages related to a discharge from an offshore facility is limited to $75 million for each incident. Senator Menendez's bill, S. 3305, amends the OPA to increase the liability cap from $75 million to $10 billion. The committee passed an amended version today that removes the limit on liability applicable to offshore facilities.

S. 3515, Department of the Interior Research and Technologies for Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act of 2010
S. 3515 was introduced by Senators Shaheen, Bingaman and Mark Udall, and establishes a research, development, technology demonstrations and risk assessments program at the Department of Interior (DOI) to address response, mitigation and cleanup issues for oil spills. Senator Boxer filed the amendment that incorporates the program into the existing research framework of the Oil Pollution Act and authorizes additional research efforts at DOI that focus on oil spill technology related to drilling, including activities to prevent and respond to well blowouts. 

S. 1311, the Gulf of Mexico Restoration and Protection Act
Introduced by Senators Wicker, Cochran, and Landrieu, and cosponsored by Senator Vitter, S. 1311 amends the Clean Water Act to reestablish a Gulf of Mexico Program Office. It also expands and strengthens cooperative efforts to monitor, restore and protect the resource productivity, water quality and marine ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico.