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Introduction Of The “Oil Spill Victims Redress Act”

Sen. Edward J. Markey

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Madam Speaker, the Oil Spill Victims Redress Act that I am introducing today with the gentlewoman from Florida, Ms. Castor, would help protect those Gulf Coast residents who have seen their livelihoods destroyed by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

This legislation would clarify that people who have suffered economic harm as a result of the BP spill can seek to pursue claims from all of the companies involved in the disaster in state court. The companies involved in the spill, including Halliburton and Cameron, have argued that the Oil Pollution Act preempts state law and, as a result, that all state law claims brought by the victims of the spill should be dismissed or removed to federal court. Some of these companies, such as Halliburton and Cameron, have even argued that they should be exempt from all suits because they are not responsible parties as defined under the OPA.

To be clear, the underlying statute, the Oil Pollution Act, already clearly provides for claims brought in state court and was not intended to preempt state law. The Act clearly states that ``nothing in this Act . . . shall affect, or be construed or interpreted to affect or modify in any way the obligations or liabilities of any person under . . . State law, including common law.''

However, in light of the legal arguments proffered by the companies involved in this disaster, the legislation that we are introducing today would further clarify the ability of people to seek compensation in state court. We must ensure that we do not forget about the people of the Gulf who have had their lives destroyed by this disaster. We must ensure that all of the companies responsible for the worst oil spill in our nation's history are held accountable. And we must ensure that everyone who has suffered economic damages as a result of the BP oil spill is made whole.