Section 1004 of the Oil Pollution Act, passed by our lovely Congresspeople in 1990 as a strengthening of then-existing rules reads as follows:
§1004 The liability for tank vessels larger than 3,000 gross tons is increased to $1,200 per gross ton or $10 million, whichever is greater. Responsible parties at onshore facilities and deepwater ports are liable for up to $350 millon per spill; holders of leases or permits for offshore facilities, except deepwater ports, are liable for up to $75 million per spill, plus removal costs. The Federal government has the authority to adjust, by regulation, the $350 million liability limit established for onshore facilities.
That means that, by law, British Petroleum is not only able to enjoy all the rights of the “fictitious individual” while not risking actual individuals’ bodily punishment exposures, but the maximum it can be required to pay for the ongoing Deepwater Horizon eco-tastrophe is $75 million — less than 5% of its 2009 reported net income; 0.3% of its total assets. As a financial punishment, this is a traffic ticket, literally.
And the official response of the liberal stylists among our allegedly concerned corporate politicians? To eliminate the cap on such damages and force giant for-profit operators to face the risk of being liable, like you and me and everybody else who can’t afford a legal dream team, for what they actually do?
Nope. Of course not. Not on the table.