Commentary: Oil spill liability cap must be lifted

Foot-dragging and partisan politics are likely to replace common sense this fall in the U.S. Senate.

The Deepwater Horizon exploded four months ago, apparently long enough to fog lawmakers' memories and dampen the political will required to reform a poorly regulated industry.

Among the many proposals before the Senate is one that would lift the liability cap for companies responsible for damaging spills. This is a no-brainer.

In 1990, lawmakers capped liability at $75 million, a preposterously low sum compared to Deepwater damage claims.

Even BP knew the sum was too low and quickly agreed to a $20 billion compensation fund. But oil industry lobbyists are pushing hard against lifting the cap, and lawmakers are listening with open wallets.

A flawed argument

Republicans -- and Democrats from oil-producing states -- were swayed by the flawed argument that lifting the cap would force oil producers to abandon the Gulf and go overseas.

The oil industry is unlikely to desert lucrative fields.

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