Senate Democrats Follow Rep. Rivera's Bill on Suing Over Cuban Oil Spills
Around the State
Days after U.S. Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami, introduced a plan to require foreign organizations to be held financially accountable if their offshore drilling hurts American shores, a pair of Democrats have introduced a Senate version of the bill.
Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida and Robert Menendez of New Jersey introduced legislation Wednesday that would remove current law that allows a polluter to argue that suits could not be brought directly against them under the Oil Pollution Act.
The bill also would remove a $75 million liability cap for spills emanating from foreign waters, and would also ensure that U.S. spill victims could avail themselves of the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund for such spills.
“Our goal here is to hold foreign oil companies liable if they have a spill that reaches U.S. waters,” Nelson stated in a release. “It’s in part aimed at the situation in Cuba, where Repsol is planning to drill. If there’s a spill there, we could lose part of the Everglades, or the Keys, or the coral reefs, or our fishing industry or tourism -- and jobs. That’s why the U.S. needs to carry a big stick."
On Friday, Rivera, who sits on the Natural Resources and Foreign Affairs committees, introduced the Foreign Oil Spill Liability Act of 2011 which also would eliminate the $75 million cap on liability for oil spills and eliminate the existing $1 billion cap on the use of the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.
Rivera’s legislation calls for penalties and costs to be tripled if the oil spill originates from one of the four nations currently designated by the U.S. State Department as state sponsors of terror -- Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria.
Meanwhile, the White House contacted Sunshine State News with a statement late Tuesday regarding Florida Republican U.S. Rep. David Rivera’s battle against Cuban efforts to drill in international waters off the Sunshine State.
“The administration is committed to protecting our natural resources and to holding polluters accountable, and this is why we are actively pursuing efforts to expedite response and minimize risks to U.S. waters and shorelines in the event of an oil spill in foreign waters,” said Joanna Rosholm, a White House spokeswoman, in a statement emailed to Sunshine State News.
“In addition to the existing authorities that we have to conduct response operations, we look forward to working with Congress to expand the statutory authority that would enable us to hold parties responsible in such an event consistent with our international responsibilities.”
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Reach Jim Turner at email@example.com or (772) 215-9889 or (850) 727-0859. Kevin Derby contributed to this report.