Stupak hesitant to change oil liability law

A key Democratic congressman Wednesday expressed reservations with raising the damages cap for oil companies.

Democratic leaders and the White House want to move on legislation that would change the Oil Pollution Act to raise the liability ceiling for companies that violate federal regulations in the wake of a massive oil spill off the coast of Louisiana caused by an explosion aboard a BP oil rig.

But Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), who chairs the Energy and Commerce oversight subcommittee, said Wednesday that the cap should not be raised just to punish BP.

"Should we look at it? Yes. Should we discuss it? I don't know if you can retroactively go back and change it -- punish, if you will, BP," he said in an interview on Fox News. "I'm not too sure that serves our purpose."

The spill has spurred calls on Capitol Hill to hold oil companies accountable.

Stupak suggested that the existing cap would not effect BP, which will likely have to pay more than the maximum $75 million if it is deemed the that company acted with gross negligence. The White House has expressed confidence the BP's legal liability will exceed the cap. 

"There is an exception to that $75 million," he said. "There are a number of exceptions and outlines, and actually we've looked at the oil production act, and even as you start to apply to this case in the Gulf, I think there is enough protections there because it's not just a flat $75 million."

The spill on the BP rig is the worst caused by a rig in decades and the explosion killed 11 people and left several more hospitalized.

Some lawmakers have suggested raising the cap from $75 million to $10 billion.

Investigators are still determining the cause of the spill and continued seepage that is affecting the Louisiana coastline.

Cross-posted to the Briefing Room