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Kyle Smith, Published June 20 2010

Bad regulations make it worse

Ever since the explosion on April 20, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has dominated the headlines. It has devastated local marine wildlife and ravaged the Gulf’s shores. BP has proven to be somewhat lackluster in its attempt to curb the pollution: It is nearly two months since this tragic event with no end in sight. One would think that with all the money BP is losing from this spill, more care would have been taken to prevent it.

The Gulf of Mexico, still recovering from the destruction that Hurricane Katrina left in her wake, is now dealing with government intervention itself. In 1990 Congress passed the “Oil Pollution Act,” which set a limit on the amount oil companies (like BP) would be liable for if a disaster (such as this one) were to occur. The limit was set at a measly $75 million or .03 percent of BP’s total 2009 U.S. revenue.

The promise of a bailout such as this reduces any incentive BP would have to promote safety measures for a big oil spill. But then again, why would they? They have the taxpayers to bail them out.

Interestingly enough, a senator from right here in North Dakota voted “yes” on that bill. Twenty years later, he is still working for us. His name is Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D. I encourage my fellow North Dakotans to give our senator a call and remind him of what government regulations can do.