BP Threatens to Cut Aid to Spill Victims if Not Allowed to Drill

In what could be a new low at BP, the company said it may not be able to pay for the damages from the Deepwater Horizon if Congress prohibits it from drilling offshore. BP appears to be betting that the threat to renege on its cleanup and compensation promises will pressure Congress to allow the company to continue drilling in the gulf, despite having created the worst environmental catastrophe in history.

The House passed a bill in July that would prevent companies with more than 10 deaths at their facilities from getting permits to drill on the outer continental shelf. Only BP’s record was poor enough to reach the threshold.

BP did not return calls for comment, but a spokesman told The New York Times: “I am not going to make a direct linkage to the $20 billion [compensation fund], but our ability to fund these assets and the cash coming from these assets that are securing these funds would be lost” if the House bill were enacted by the full Congress.

The oil giant's expectation that Congress will be cowed by the apparent intimidation tactic may be correct, as response from the Hill to the threat has so far been muted. “It’s like Bonnie and Clyde saying we are not going to pay back the money we stole unless you let us keep robbing banks,” Democratic Rep. George Miller of California, who added the language to the bill, told NEWSWEEK. “We need to be able to assure people in the gulf that the companies getting permits are safe. But this is absolutely a rogue company in how they ignore both safety and environmental regulations.”

BP had $16.6 billion in profits in 2009.

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