The US government will offer millions of dollars to oil companies and other owners of oil and gas wells who claim they are being targeted by the government, according to a new government proposal.
The move, which would be the largest single payment from the federal government since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, is the latest attempt to compensate owners for lost income from the disaster.
“These companies have been left to their own devices,” said Representative Markwayne Mullin, a Republican from Oklahoma who is co-sponsoring the bill.
“We know they’re doing everything they can to try to avoid being paid.
This is an opportunity for them to do the right thing.”
The oil and natural gas industry has long accused the government of being hostile toward its business.
Last week, a federal judge in Oklahoma, who had previously ruled against the industry in a class-action lawsuit, rejected a bid by the Interior Department to have the agency remove the government from the lawsuit.
Representative Mullin said the government will provide the funds “if the oil and coal companies can demonstrate that they have lost more than $5 billion or more than 5 percent of their income from oil and mining.”
“It’s not going to be easy,” Mullin told Reuters.
“I don’t know if we’ll see a million dollars.”
Oil and gas companies say they are struggling to compete with rivals like China and India, both of which are pushing for greater access to the energy resources.
Energy companies say the move is necessary to make sure the U.S. maintains a credible safety net to handle the spill and is able to recover the money if the industry’s business collapses.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at addressing the oil spill.
The order directs the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement to determine “whether an oil spill caused by an operator of a foreign oil company has occurred in the United States and whether such operator has been a party to or participated in a covered activity in which the spill has occurred.”
According to Mullin’s bill, if the government is able “to prove that an oil company or foreign oil operator is a party or participated, or directed, or knowingly contributed to the spill or caused the spill, the Secretary of the Interior may authorize an appropriate payment from funds in the National Flood Insurance Program,” which is funded through the federal Treasury.
It will be up to the Treasury to decide whether the payment is approved.
Oil industry leaders have said the bill is needed to protect against a repeat of the spill.
Mullin said that he wants to give companies a chance to make a full recovery, but the bill would not prevent the federal agency from suing the oil companies if it finds they did not provide the full amount of insurance.
In addition to the $5 million payment, the bill provides for the “immediate payment of a sum equal to 50 percent of the total amount of damages and costs reasonably incurred by the Secretary and his or her designee, for the loss of life, personal injury, and property damage caused by the oil industry and foreign oil companies involved in the spill.”
Mulin said he wants the money to be paid immediately, but that the bill “could go either way.”
A spokesman for the Interior Secretary did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Read more at Reuters.