GAO – Government Accountability Office
BP Has Paid U.S. More Than $500 Million for Gulf Spill Responses
By Jim Snyder
BP Plc has paid the U.S. $518 million for clean-up and other efforts related to its Gulf of Mexico oil spill, congressional auditors said.
The Government Accountability Office released a report today reviewing the financial risks facing the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which Congress authorized in 1990 — after the Exxon Valdez incident — to pay the immediate expenses of federal agencies responding to spills. An 8-cents-per-barrel petroleum tax finances the fund.
While more than $1.6 billion remained in the fund as of the end of September, disbursements for one incident can’t exceed $1 billion by law, even if oil companies reimburse the government for the costs, according to the GAO.
The GAO report shows that federal and state agencies have spent $581 million so far on cleanup and restoration of natural resources damaged by the spill, triggered by the April 20 blowout on the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.
The fund is “at risk” of reaching the limit on total expenditures for the BP spill in the “relatively near future,” the GAO said.
The U.S. has asked for reimbursement from companies deemed to be responsible parties for spills. BP had paid the U.S. $518.4 million as of Oct. 12, according to the GAO report.
Congress is considering legislation to lift the $1 billion restriction. The GAO recommended a more elastic cap in which the money reimbursed by oil companies is not counted against the limit.
Senator Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat, said in an e-mail today that “it is unlikely that the current cap of $1 billion will sustain the eventual cost of this monumental clean-up and recovery effort.”
Carper, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s panel on federal financial management, called the GAO’s recommendation a “workable, common-sense approach.”
The federal oil-spill fund is separate from the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, the entity run by lawyer Kenneth Feinberg to compensate people and businesses hurt by the spill. BP said it will dedicate $20 billion to that program.
The U.S. Coast Guard has identified BP, Transocean Ltd., which operated the drilling rig, and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and MOEX Offshore 2007 LLC, part owners of the ruptured well, as responsible parties and therefore potentially required to reimburse the government for its spill costs. So far, BP is the only company that has paid.
The GAO report was requested by Carper; Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat; Democratic Representatives John Conyers of Michigan and Nick Rahall of West Virginia; and Michael Burgess, a Texas Republican.
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