Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu now makes for a Louisiana exacta for the upper house, joining her opposition party colleague Republican Sen. David Vitter in proposing non-extreme legislation to piggyback on existing law that governs how private entities compensate for oil spills of their responsibilities.
Weeks ago, Vitter proposed a very sensible plan calling for a liability floor of $150 million, twice the current cap, with the maximum increasing to an amount equal to four times the company's profits during the previous four quarters. Of course, being that Democrats run the Senate, it was dead on arrival for two reasons: it came from a Republican running for reelection especially in a year where Democrats may lose control of the Senate and because some Democrat senators are enthralled with the know-nothing wing of the environmentalist movement whose prejudices call for, if not an outright ban on offshore drilling, punitive measures to discourage it into oblivion.
That latter attitude is encapsulated in a current bill that would have no liability cap at all which would drastically reduce exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, limiting it only to the largest concerns, in effect reducing supply, driving up prices, and eliminating jobs and economic growth, particularly in Louisiana, as smaller firms would consider it too risky to explore. With politics blocking Vitter’s plan and the current Pres. Barack Obama and Senate Democrat-preferred plan too radical and counterproductive, Landrieu has stepped into the breach with a reasonable approach.
Landrieu’s idea would raise the current cap from $75 million to $250 million and require companies to pay into an insurance policy covering damages of as much as an additional $10 billion. It would base premiums on the size of a company's drilling operations, meaning larger firms would pay more. She has been researching this for some time, and, to date, evidence is that the costs passed on by the policy issuance, while onerous, would not appear to cripple exploration. While not as good as Vitter’s, because his would promote more careful behavior by forcing companies to bear the burden and does not require a periodic cost that would discourage drilling for some, it’s much better than what the Democrat leadership has stumped for.
It’s also good politics for both. Vitter’s Senate challenger Democrat Rep. Charlie Melancon has come down on the side of unlimited liability and all the problems that entails, while Landrieu has a long ways to go in rehabilitating herself after she was the decisive vote that will produce a health care insurance system of higher cost with worse outcomes for which she will not be forgotten soon, so this can’t hurt in winning her back a handful of votes.
Hopefully, if the Senate Democrat majority doesn’t put politics ahead of people and miraculously go with Vitter on this issue, at least it will head in Landrieu’s direction, provided the required insurance is not burdensomely priced.