The Oil Pollution Act (P.L. 101-380, 104 Stat. 484) was passed by Congress in August 1990 in the wake of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The Act is designed to help the federal government prevent and respond to oil spills by providing the federal government with the ability, money, and resources to do so.
The Act authorized use of the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which is able to provide up to one billion dollars per spill. The Act set requirements for contingency planning both by the oil industry and the government. The Act also increased penalties for regulatory noncompliance, expanded the government’s authority over enforcement and response, and preserved state authority to establish stricter standards for spill prevention and response.
§1002 provides that the party responsible for the oil spill is liable for removal costs consistent with the National Contingency Plan (NCP), as well as damages to natural resources, property, subsistence use of natural resources, revenues, profits/earning capacity, and public services.
§1004 sets the limits of liability. For large tank vessels, the limit is $1,200 per gross ton or $10 million, whichever is greater;for onshore facilities and deepwater ports, the limit is $350 million; for holders of leases or permits for offshore facilities, except deepwater ports, the limit is $75 million, plus removal costs.
§1006 requires appointed government agencies (“trustees”) to assess damages to natural resources causedby the oil spill and implement restoration projects for the recovery of those natural resources.
§1018(a) gives states the ability to impose additional liability (including unlimited liability), funding mechanisms, requirements for removal actions, and fines and penalties for responsible parties.
§1019 gives states access to federal funds (up to $250,000 per incident) for immediate removal, mitigation, or prevention of a discharge. Also provides that states may be reimbursed by the trust fund for removal and monitoring costs during response and cleanup consistent with the NCP.
§4202 provides for the establishment of spill contingency plans,mandates the development of response plans for individual tank vessels and certain facilities for responding to a worst-case discharge oil spill; and provides requirements for spill removal equipment and periodic inspections.
§4301 sets civil penalties for the discharge of oil, failure to notify the appropriate federal government agency that an oil spill has occurred, and failure to comply with federal removal orders.
§9001(a) authorizes the federal government to borrow $1 billion from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund for each incident.