Amendment Lifts Liability Cap Protecting Companies from Covering Full Cost of Accidents & Related Damage

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Kirsten Gillibrand filed an amendment to the Keystone XL Pipeline bill to hold big oil companies like TransCanada accountable for any potential oil spills by lifting the current cap on liabilities companies face.  Federal law currently protects oil companies by limiting their spill liabilities – making them responsible for only up to $134 million in damages for offshore oil spills, and $350 million for spills that occur onshore.

“This amendment says simply to Big Oil:  If you break it, you buy it,” said Senator Menendez.   “The best way to prevent oil spills is to make sure oil companies like TransCanada pay for all of the damages oil spills cause. If you hurt small businesses or communities, you fix them.  If you hurt someone, you make it right.  If you pollute, you pay.  This amendment removes the cap on big oil companies' liabilities, helping to make sure companies that spill pay the bill – and do the right thing by the American people should accidents happen.”

“Local communities shouldn’t be left holding the bag if another major oil spill occurs, and this amendment will ensure oil companies pay for the messes they make,” said Senator Gillibrand. “While I do not think the Keystone pipeline is the right approach for our energy economy, I will do everything in my power to ensure the energy industry meets the standards that keep Americans safe and holds companies responsible for any damage that occurs under their watch.”

The amendment is similar to the Big Oil Bailout Prevention Unlimited Liability Act (S. 828) which Menendez introduced first in 2010 following the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill and again in 2011 and 2013.

Recent reports show TransCanada made $1.4 billion in profits in 2013.   

Download full text of the Menendez-Gillibrand amendment here.

In addition to the oil spill liability amendment, Senator Menendez offered the following amendments to the Keystone XL pipeline bill:

  • Menendez-Cantwell Eminent Domain. This amendment prohibits TransCanada from using eminent domain proceedings to seize private property in order to build the pipeline. (Download full amendment text here.)
  • Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Version 1. This amendment ends tax subsidies for the five largest oil companies, which are some of the most profitable corporations in the world. The savings from the bill would go to reducing the deficit. (Download full amendment text here.)
  • Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Version 2. This amendment also ends tax subsidies for the five largest oil companies, which are some of the most profitable corporations in the world. The savings from the bill would go to supporting tax incentives for clean, renewable sources of energy including wind and solar. (Download full amendment text here.)
  • Infrastructure Investment Version 1. This amendment expresses the Sense of the Congress that increased federal infrastructure investment would create millions of jobs, help businesses grow, reduce traffic congestion, and save lives. (Download full amendment text here.)
  • Infrastructure Investment Version 2. This amendment also expresses the Sense of the Congress that increased federal infrastructure investment is essential to the U.S. economy and would create jobs – and additionally includes several statistics to prove these points. (Download full amendment text here.)
  • U.S. Canada Emissions goals. This amendment expresses the Sense of the Congress that the governments of the U.S. and Canada should continue working toward achieving their shared emission reduction goals (which is approximately 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020), and that the government of Canada should join the U.S. goal of reducing emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. (Download full amendment text here.)