Commentary: Murkowski, Begich should show the way on oil-spill legislation compromise

Last week we wrote about the political and ideological divisions that were keeping the United States — particularly the U.S. Senate — from progress toward a national energy policy.

By the end of the week, we had examples from Alaska's two U.S. senators of how that might change.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski welcomed compromise oil-spill legislation from Sen. Mark Begich and another bill from Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. Both are Democrats.

All three senators were opposed to the unlimited oil spill liability legislation the Democratic majority backed and then dropped last week.

Both Murkowski and Begich want to make sure that any oil-spill liability legislation does not drive smaller operators out of the Gulf of Mexico or Alaska. To that end, they both want to raise the current $75 million liability to $250 million. Beyond that, they want to establish a multibillion-dollar pool guaranteed by all operators to cover liability. The goal would be to cover the damages of any spill without leaving American taxpayers on the hook for them.

Three caveats: One, there is no such thing as a guarantee that taxpayers -- or taxpayers in their role as consumers -- won't pay. But the legislation does demand payment from the companies responsible.

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