May 17, 2010 / 6:54 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 1-$10 bln oil liability cap not enough-US Sen. Reid

(Adds quotes and details)

WASHINGTON, May 17 (Reuters) - A proposed cap of $10 billion in liability for oil companies to cover damages from oil spills is “inadequate,” U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Monday.

Democrats have introduced legislation that would raise the current $75 million liability cap to $10 billion per company for each incident. Reid urged fast action on raising the cap, saying that $75 million was “clearly insufficient” but, “I certainly think a $10 billion cap is inadequate.”

The move to increase the liability limits has been spurred by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill that occurred nearly a month ago, which likely will be one of the biggest environmental disasters in U.S. history.

An oil rig leased by BP America Inc, a subsidiary of British oil company BP Plc (BP.L), caught fire and sank, causing a rupture in pipelines connected to an underwater oil well. According to estimates, at least 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons/795,000 litres) a day are being dumped into the Gulf of Mexico by the disaster.

In his prepared remarks, Reid cited a report on CBS’s “60 Minutes” on Sunday of “damning evidence that the roots of this tragedy are in BP executives efforts’ to pad their own wallets.”

“Their greed led to 11 horrific and unnecessary deaths. It has harmed an enormous tourism industry, threatened business at countless fisheries and disrupted life for many along the Gulf Coast,” Reid said. “As the pollution grows worse, those consequences will only compound.”

A Democratic move last week to bring a bill raising the liability cap to $10 billion was stymied when Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of the oil-producing state of Alaska objected.

Democrats are now looking at other ways to bring the legislation onto the Senate floor for a vote. (Reporting by Richard Cowan and Thomas Ferraro, Editing by Stacey Joyce)

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