National Journal - Energy and Environment Blog: Murkowski Would Plump Trust Fund, Let President Raise Liability Cap

Senate Energy and Natural Resources ranking member Lisa Murkowski on Tuesday will outline her recommendations for addressing the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and future spills, including more than doubling a tax on oil companies for spill liability relief, expediting claims and guaranteeing a revenue share for coastal oil-producing states.

The Alaska Republican's plan would raise the tax on oil and gas companies going into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund from 8 cents per barrel to 21 cents, about half the increase Senate Democrats are seeking. This is intended to raise the level in the trust fund from roughly $1.6 billion to $10 billion.

The president would have the authority to raise the liability cap a company would face for a major spill from its current $75 million; the proposal does not call for a specific increase. Senate Democrats have gone from calling for a $10 billion limit to now wanting to retroactively lift the cap completely.

Murkowski's proposal would also guarantee revenue sharing for coastal drilling states, including hers. It is the same 37.5 percent revenue-sharing figure that was considered a key component of the climate and energy legislation that Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., Joe Lieberman, I/D-Conn., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., were working on before Graham bolted from the talks and before the April 20 explosion of the BP-run Deepwater Horizon rig and subsequent massive spill.

Her proposal also seeks to expedite filing and granting of claims tied to the gulf spill in part by creating a new Office of Deepwater Claims Compensation within the Interior Department. It would restrict oil transportation in Arctic waters to pipelines rather than tankers and provide added funding and authority for the Coast Guard to research and develop oil spill containment and response technology.

While certainly many Republicans would share several of these positions -- as would Energy and Natural Resources panel member Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. -- Murkowski as of this afternoon did not have any cosponsors, her spokesman said.

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Source: By Darren Goode. Published June 14, 2010