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Sen. Murkowski: BP Must be Held Fully Accountable

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today reiterated her commitment to ensuring that all those affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are justly compensated by the companies responsible.

"When it comes to liability issues associated with a major oil spill, I don't believe any other state represented on this committee has more experience than my home state of Alaska," Murkowski said. "The recovery from the Exxon Valdez oil spill has been long and sad, and it took 20 years for litigation over punitive damages to be resolved. That in and of itself was a tragedy we can't let happen again."

Murkowski made her comments at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on oil spill liability issues. Murkowski called for the hearing to ensure a full public discussion on the benefits and potential unintended consequences of arbitrarily increasing the strict liability cap on offshore drilling.

"I wanted our committee to hold this hearing because there has been considerable debate - along with major misunderstandings - about liability for the Deepwater Horizon spill and what parts of that liability are or are not limited," Murkowski said. "Among the most often repeated mischaracterizations is the idea that BP is only responsible for $75 million of the likely billions in total spill costs."

The reality is that the $75 million figure is drawn from just one provision on strict liability in the Oil Pollution Act, and has nothing to do with the expressly unlimited liability provided for cleanup costs. Even more important, it has nothing to do with the law's authorization for unlimited damages allowed under various state laws.

Murkowski supports raising the liability limit, but cautioned that we need to do so in a manner that makes sense or it will have long-lasting unintended consequences.

"We must and we will hold BP fully accountable for this tragedy," Murkowski said. "We also must consider the cumulative effect of the different levels of liability, which could be economically devastating. Thousands of jobs, particularly along the Gulf coast, could be lost, our nation's energy security could be weakened, without providing any additional protection."

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