Bill punishing oil polluters debated

The Daily Record Newswire

As oil from the massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico continues to spread, lawmakers have introduced legislation that would lift the cap on punitive damages that can be assessed against those responsible for such disasters under maritime law.

The Big Oil Polluter Pays Act, S. 3345, was introduced on May 11 by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.

The measure would overturn the 2008 Supreme Court case Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, in which the Court ruled that damages from the 1989 Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska should be limited to the amount of compensatory damages.

The bill would allow judges and juries to assess punitive damages based on all facts in a case, without regard to the amount of other damages owed, Whitehouse said.

''By ... making it clear that oil companies will be held accountable for these sad events, I hope these bills will help prevent future accidents,'' Whitehouse said.

Whitehouse also field two other bills - the BP Deepwater Horizon Inquiry Commission Act of 2010, which would establish an independent, non-partisan commission to investigate the Gulf oil spill, and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) Amendments Act, which would raise the civil and criminal penalties associated with violating provisions of the OCSLA.

Published: Mon, Jun 7, 2010