Independent oil companies threatened by new regulations

Washington Times:

One of the biggest of the big oil companies may be responsible for the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, but Washington's response to the BP PLC spill would give an advantage to such major oil companies while threatening to put their small competitors out of business.

Energy legislation that Senate leaders said they may take up this week would sharply raise or eliminate a $75 million cap on oil company liability for economic damage from spills — a change that poses no great threat to giants like BP, which is setting aside $10 billion out of its huge profits and assets to pay for claims related to the spill and has already paid out billions.

But opening up smaller companies to large or unlimited liability would make it prohibitively expensive for them to get the insurance they need to drill and would force many of them out of the deep-water drilling business, analysts say. Even some major oil companies might see open-ended liability in America's famously litigious society as a reason not to drill in U.S. waters again.

"This would effectively eliminate deep-water drilling in the Gulf and send oil companies to other countries to do the drilling," said Andrew B. Busch, global strategist at BMO Capital Markets, speaking of Senate and White House proposals to drop the liability cap that was established after the last major oil spill by the Exxon Valdez tanker in Alaska in 1989.

"While it may be seen as a good thing until safety precautions can be proven for this type of drilling," he said, "the U.S. runs the risk of losing a large source of energy that is not coming from a foreign source."

The potential for wiping out independent wildcatters and other small operators — which make up the majority of U.S. oil firms — is not entirely unintentional.

White House officials and some members of Congress have suggested that given the risks of huge spills, as demonstrated by the Macondo disaster, perhaps it would be best to limit drilling to those companies that can more easily shoulder the enormous costs of cleanup.

"Many in the current administration and congressional leadership have indicated that it is perfectly acceptable to reduce the number of oil and gas exploration companies to those judged to be big enough to pay," said David Welch of the National Ocean Industries Association.

An unlimited liability cap, along with measures in the Senate legislation that would dramatically increase financial responsibility requirements on companies bidding for Gulf of Mexico leases, would "without a doubt, result in many companies being no longer able to stay in business," he said. That will lead to "more and more jobs lost and less energy produced at home."

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This is just more evidence of the Democrats attempts to strangle domestic energy production. It is not just about environmental risks. They want to drive up the cost of energy to make less efficient forms of energy more competitive because of their belief in globo warming.

They know the voters are not with them on that so they look for other justifications to drive up the coast of oil and gas. In the process they make us more dependent on foreign suppliers at at time when people like Hugo Chavez are threatening to cut us off. These efforts need to be defeated or our national security would be at risk.

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