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Last updated at 15:29 BST, Friday, 14 May 2010

BP 'must pay' oil spill costs

Summary

10 May 2010

US President Barack Obama is pressing for a law that would force British Petroleum to pay the full cost of the oil leak off the Gulf of Mexico.

The bill could run into billions of dollars.

Reporter:
Mark Mardell

Oil rig on fire

The spill happened after an explosion

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Report

Five thousand barrels of oil a day continue to spew into the Gulf of Mexico threatening five states. The investigations into the accident are far from over but United States senators have heard evidence from the companies involved that it might have been caused by a combination of faulty wiring, a leak in the equipment designed to prevent blowouts and even a dead battery.

President Obama has written to Congress saying he will spare no effort trying to help those hit by what he calls a massive and potentially unprecedented environmental disaster.

Mr Obama's letter says the government will aggressively pursue full compensation and as part of that he wants the limit lifted on the amount oil companies are liable to pay after a spill. At the moment it's capped at 75 million dollars and although the president doesn't suggest a new figure some politicians are talking about raising it to at least 10 billion dollars.

This is not just about the clean up itself. The new law would make the companies pay for unemployment benefit for those, like fishermen who are put out of work, emergency aid for them, agencies to help them find new jobs, increased safety inspections and even more frequent checks to make sure fish from the gulf are safe to eat.

The new law would be retrospective. British Petroleum has said it will pay all costs. United States officials are making it clear they will interpret "all" to mean every last cent.

Mark Mardell, BBC News, Washington

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Vocabulary

to spew

to flow out with a lot of force

evidence

details about what happened

faulty wiring

electrical system that is broken or was not made correctly

blowouts

an occasion when oil or gas suddenly escapes from a well

a dead battery

a piece of equipment that is dead is no longer working

full compensation

payment of the total amount of money needed to pay for everything related to the oil spill

liable to pay

legally responsible for paying for damage or injury caused

capped at

limited to

unemployment benefit

money provided by the government to people who lose their jobs

retrospective

a retrospective law is a law that applies to the past, before the law was made

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