In a sense, this was always the case. BP makes their money from drilling for, and selling, oil, and so their continued viability in running that business affects whether they have the cash available to pay out the $20 escrow fund for compensation to those hit by the oil disaster. But the deal between BP and the government apparently makes that explicit, and in particular their Gulf of Mexico drilling operations:
The Obama administration and BP PLC are close to a deal to use future revenues from the oil giant’s Gulf of Mexico operations to guarantee its $20 billion cleanup and compensation fund, a move that would give both sides an incentive to continue production in the Gulf, scene of the U.S.’s worst-ever offshore oil spill [...]
BP has said it expects to be able to make the required payments to the $20 billion fund through its ongoing operations and asset sales. However, the administration wanted security in the form of collateral in the event that BP couldn’t meet its obligation due to financial or legal problems.
The issue of collateral is the last detail to be ironed out. It is a prickly political issue because it could make the administration and BP partners of sorts in developing the Gulf.
Such a deal could provoke a backlash on Capitol Hill, where some lawmakers are moving to bar BP from operating in the Gulf. Legislation approved by the House of Representatives in July would effectively prohibit the government from issuing new offshore oil leases or drilling permits to the oil company by adding a roster of requirements BP couldn’t satisfy.
That ban on BP or any company with a substandard safety record from Gulf drilling actually passed the House in the CLEAR Act two weeks ago. So BP cleverly wants to use future drilling sales as collateral to basically force their doors open for more exploration.
That undermines the new safety regime that the Administration claims to support, and amounts to keeping the lights on for offshore and deepwater drilling in a way that almost looks like bribery. BP has operations all over the planet, there doesn’t seem to be any reason why their escrow payments must be linked to Gulf of Mexico exploration.
No Democrats have spoken out about this as of yet, but I’d expect that to happen shortly.