05/18/2010 03:01 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Mark Kirk: BP Should Be Responsible For Oil Spill Damages

In a press conference Tuesday morning, Mark Kirk called for British Petroleum to assume liability for all the damage caused by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

As he accepted the endorsement of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce in his heated Senate race against Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, Kirk told reporters that oil companies need better safeguards and contingency plans before they drill new exploratory offshore wells.

From the AP coverage of the event:

Kirk says he isn't concerned that liability connected to the massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico could put British Petroleum out of business.


Kirk says a company that causes a tremendous liability should be responsible to pay for it.

Though he didn't offer specifics, this opinion would put him in line with Democratic Senators like Robert Menendez, Frank Lautenberg and Bill Nelson, who have sponsored legislation to raise oil companies' liabilities from $75 million to $10 billion in offshore spills.

Kirk has a mixed track record when it comes to offshore drilling. In 2007, he stood up to BP when it sought to dump more ammonia and toxic sludge into Lake Michigan. "I think BP now stands for bad polluter," Kirk said at the time. "They need to be called out on their corporate hypocrisy."

When it was revealed in 2009 that the company's Whiting, Indiana facility had consistently violated clean air standards by pumping toxic benzene into the air, he joined with Democrat Mike Quigley and 17 other congressmen in demanding accountability.

But Kirk has been much more indulgent when Big Oil wasn't in his backyard, as NBC Chicago writes: "During the 2008 presidential campaign, he joined his party's 'Drill Baby Drill' wing by endorsing oil exploration in the Gulf."

In fact, Kirk pushed the falsehood that China was drilling for oil off the Cuban coast to encourage American support for additional drilling in the Gulf.

The current unchecked disaster in the region, however, seems to have made him change his tune on offshore exploration -- or at least rewrite a note or two.

The Capitol Fax, a leading Illinois political blog, sums up Kirk's Tuesday announcement nicely: "It's good to see Kirk is now on board for common sense rules, which too many (including Kirk) didn't support before this horrific disaster."