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Sen. Bill Nelson loses out on bid to increase damages cap

WASHINGTON — Sen. Bill Nelson's hard-charging reaction to the gulf oil disaster ran into a wall Thursday, a reminder of how influential the industry remains.

Nelson and two other Democratic lawmakers, eager to show the public they are going after BP, wanted a quick passage of a bill to increase a cap on damages from oil spills to $10 billion from $75 million.

But Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a supporter of continued oil drilling, objected. That sidelined the bill for now because Nelson and his allies were seeking passage under unanimous consent rules.

Murkowski agreed the cap should be raised but said a $10 billion liability could hurt smaller oil companies, which provide her state with jobs and revenue.

"Senator from Alaska just sandbagged my bill," Nelson fumed on Twitter.

The Obama administration has endorsed raising the cap but has not put a figure on it.

Nelson's office said he may try to attach the bill to other legislation next week.

Also Thursday, Nelson wrote a letter to Obama saying he could not support a climate and energy bill released this week because it includes offshore drilling.

"The bill could allow drilling in federal waters close to states' coastlines, including along the Atlantic seaboard. It would be up to states, like Florida, whether to establish a 75-mile no-drill zone," Nelson wrote.

"As a result, the bill could cede to the Florida Legislature decisions about commercial and other activities where we have a unique U.S. military installation and national missile testing range. Such is unthinkable."

Alex Leary, Times Staff Writer

Crist confident BP will pay up

Gov. Charlie Crist said he expects BP to honor the state's request for $34.75 million to spend on an emergency advertising blitz to calm tourists.

"I think they'll honor it," Crist told the St. Petersburg Times editorial board Thursday. "I think they're really trying to do their best with a horrible situation."

Crist said he "can't believe we don't have it on our beaches yet" and credited Mother Nature and currents for saving Florida from a direct hit from the oil spill.

He recalled his first visit to Pensacola and Mobile, Ala., after the spill, when he met with some of the BP people.

"They looked absolutely scared out of their minds," Crist said.

Florida activates oil spill information line

Gov. Crist on Thursday activated a phone line to provide updates on the spill. The toll-free information line, 1-888-337-3569, will be answered from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week. Information is also available online at www. dep.state.fl.us/deepwaterhorizon.

Information from Times staff and the Miami Herald was used in this report.

Sen. Bill Nelson loses out on bid to increase damages cap 05/13/10 [Last modified: Thursday, May 13, 2010 11:54pm]

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