That appears to be true only up to $75 million dollars (unless the cause of the accident falls into one of the exceptions mentioned above, in which case there is no cap).
In addition, Baer, the OMB official, said in a statement that “BP could be liable for damages under additional applicable federal and state laws. You can be sure that BP will be held accountable to the full extent of the law.”
What Congress Is Doing
Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) proposed legislation Monday to raise the $75 million damages cap to $10 billion, and eliminate the $1 billion-per-incident cap on claims to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.
Said Nelson: “BP says it’ll pay for this mess. Baloney. They’re not going to want to pay any more than what the law says they have to …”
The Administration says it backs the bill.
Putting an estimate on the cleanup costs and the potential damages would seem impossible at this early point. But here are a few figures of interest. It’s not known at this point how much of the coast will be affected, but the Washington Post offers a sense of the size of the coastal economy:
The annual commercial seafood harvest in the gulf is $661 million, recreational fishing contributes $757 million and nearly 8,000 jobs, and tourism related to wildlife adds $517 million, according to the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies.
The cost of cleanup for the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska was $3.5 billion, the Los Angeles Times reports. But that figure does not include damages, and that spill affected unpopulated areas.
BP earned almost $40 billion in 2008 and 2009, according to the AP.
Another unknown is how much other companies associated with the spill will be forced to pay as a result of lawsuits. Multiple class action suits have already been filed — by shrimpers, restaurant owners, and boat dealerships, among others — naming BP, rig owner Transocean, blowout preventer manufacturer Cameron International, and rig subcontractor Halliburton.
(This post has been updated with comment from Nelson.)