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Browner Says BP Claims Probably Will Surpass $20 Billion

BP May Pay More Than $20 Billion in Claims
Carol Browner, the White House adviser on energy and climate change, speaking in Washington on Wednesday. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The $20 billion that BP Plc will set aside for claims from the worst oil spill in U.S. history probably won’t be all the company ultimately must pay, President Barack Obama’s senior energy and environment adviser said.

“It is likely that the number will be higher,” Carol Browner said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Conversations with Judy Woodruff,” airing this weekend.

BP agreed with Obama on June 16 to set up a $20 billion compensation fund for victims of the environmental and economic disaster caused by the explosion of its well in the Gulf of Mexico. BP and the administration are struggling to stop the flow of as much as 60,000 barrels of oil daily from the well.

BP should be able to contain as much as 90 percent of the gushing crude in coming days or weeks, Obama said in a June 15 address televised from the Oval Office.

“We have pushed them very hard to improve that plan that will get us to up to 90 percent of it captured while the relief wells are being dug,” Browner said yesterday. BP is working to complete relief wells by August that the company says provide the only prospect of completely plugging the leak.

Browner also talked about Obama’s commitment to passing energy legislation. The spill should spur new laws to “change how we produce and use energy,” Obama said in his speech. He didn’t insist that the Senate approve legislation passed by the House last year with a cap-and-trade system in which companies buy and sell a declining number of carbon dioxide allowances.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said yesterday that the 59-member Democratic caucus is split on putting a price on carbon.

“We need to work on that, and we need to see where members are, and that is what we are going to do in the coming days and weeks,” Browner said. “The president has always been clear about the need to put a cap on carbon.”

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